PHILADELPHIA, PA – A day after six Philadelphia police narcotics officers were charged in a sprawling federal corruption probe, Mayor Nutter announced Thursday that an arbitrator has awarded police a new contract that gives the commissioner long-sought powers to transfer officers in and out of the department’s drug and internal affairs units.
The details of how officers could be rotated out of those units every five years remain to be hammered out between the department and the police union.
Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said the flexibility to rotate officers was not just about battling corruption, but career development for officers who want to enter specialized units and moving experienced officers to other posts in the city.
“The majority of the officers I have working in the narcotics section . . . they are not corrupt, period,” Ramsey said. “The purpose of the rotation isn’t about that. If you’ve got a person who is corrupt, six months is too long.”
FOP President John McNesby said the rotation issue was “one of the areas we differed on” but said he thought “we got caught up in a bad time,” when police corruption was making bold headlines.
Nutter cheered the changes, while making a full-throated defense of officers whose watch has seen a historic reduction in homicides and shootings in recent years.
“I will not allow incidents like yesterday . . . to negatively impact the reputation of these men and women,” Nutter said. “They are heroes out on the street.”
The contract also gives Ramsey more flexibility in making promotions, spreading resources throughout the year and responding to crime problems in different areas of the city.
The three-year contract contains raises each year, as well as a $1,500 bonus for each officer by next year or once the department is accredited with the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association.
The contract is expected to cost the city $218 million, more than the administration had budgeted in its five-year financial plan.
But Nutter said the city would not challenge the arbitration award because of the “crucial tools” it gives Ramsey to make reforms in the department.
“You only need to look at yesterday’s news to see how important some of these changes are to the department,” Nutter said.
The administration will have to submit a new five-year plan to the city’s financial overseer, the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, explaining how the city intends to pay for the contract.
McNesby said most officers care primarily about their health care and salary, and this contract “delivers on both.”
The department at full strength has about 6,500 officers.
The city also has been in arbitration for a new four-year contract with the firefighters union, Local 22.
Earlier this year, the Nutter administration came to terms with the white-collar municipal workers represented by AFSCME District Council 47 after five years without a new contract. An agreement still has not been reached with District Council 33, which represents blue-collar municipal workers. Those employees also have been without a new contract or a raise since 2009.
The two AFSCME unions must negotiate directly with the administration, while the firefighters and police, who are not allowed to strike, go before arbitration panels. The Nutter administration went to court to challenge a contract awarded to firefighters in 2010 as unaffordable.
The administration continued to fight the award until last September. By then, the two sides had already started meeting on the firefighters’ next contract, to run through 2017.