Union Chief: Detroit Losing Police Officers

DETROIT, MI — As Detroit officials and the city’s largest police union negotiate a contract extension, officers continue leaving the city at an alarming rate, according to the union president.

Since Jan. 1, the Detroit Police Officers Association union has lost 117 officers — an average of 4.5 per week — many of whom bolted to other cities for higher pay and better benefits, DPOA president Mark Diaz said.

Diaz said the union and city are negotiating to extend a contract that was signed during the city’s bankruptcy. The contract expires in 2020, and the negotiations involve extending the deal until 2022.

“We’re working with the mayor and his team, trying to come to a resolution,” Diaz said. “But the three proposals they’ve sent us so far have missed the mark. I hope we’re getting close.”

John Roach, spokesman for Mayor Mike Duggan, was out of town and referred questions to Peter Kadushin, who declined to comment.

Diaz said he wants to restore some of the benefits lost during the city’s 2013 bankruptcy, including restoration of holiday pay.

Other perks lost during the bankruptcy, which Diaz said he wants restored, include: longevity pay, which was about 1 percent of senior officers’ base pay.

“The total cost for that was $2 million for all the DPOA across the board, so when the city has a surplus of several million dollars, they could restore that,” Diaz said.

Detroit ended the 2017 fiscal year with a $53.8 million general fund operating surplus, and is projected to have a $33 million surplus in fiscal year 2018.

“We also lost 40 hours of sick time,” Diaz said. “We used to be able to bank sick time if we didn’t use it. Policing is a high-speed job, and when officers go down, they go down hard. We had a sick bank that was built in, but we lost that during the bankruptcy.”

Since 2014, the city has hired just under 800 police officers, Diaz said. “But we’ve lost over 800 during that time,” he said. In 2014, there were about 2,000 police officers in the DPOA; currently, there are 1,624, he said.

Diaz said replacing seasoned officers with inexperienced cops isn’t the answer. About 800 Detroit cops have less than five years of experience, he said.

“I’m glad the city is trying to hire officers, but we need to retain the ones who are here,” he said. “Just yesterday, I lost an officer to Warren. He has 19 years and a month at DPD. Had he stuck around 11 more months, he would’ve gotten a full pension. But he opted out.

“He was making $57,000 here; in Warren, they paid him $78,000 off the bat,” Diaz said. “How are we going to compete with that?

“I’d love for DPD to pay our officers $78,000 a year, but absent the ability to do that, at the very least, they need to restore those benefits we lost, so we can be somewhat comparable to other departments.”

Diaz said another problem is officers leaving shortly after they graduate from the police academy. According to Bridge Magazine, 19 percent of Detroit police recruits hired from 2015 to 2018 left the department within three years of graduating from the police academy.

“The cost of the police academy is about $7,000, and the recruits are also being paid $36,000 a year while they’re in the academy,” Diaz said. “The city is also paying into the pension system while they’re in the academy.

“By not giving Detroit police officers a reason to stay here after the academy, the city is exacerbating the problem by having to train new officers,” Diaz said. “The city has to stop looking at DPD as a training ground for other police departments.”

Detroit police Chief James Craig said that’s a huge problem.

“Both the mayor and I advocate getting our officers paid according to the market,” Craig said. “But the issue of officers leaving after getting trained is huge. They go through the academy, go through probation, and, boom, they’re gone. If you learn to be a police officer in Detroit, you can go anywhere in the country.”

From The Detroit News