With contract negotiations between the city of Lakeville and its police officers faltering after more than a year of talks, the two sides may go to arbitration to settle the matter.
The patrol officer's union and the city will meet today—Dec. 19—for a final round of negotiations. The talks will cover disagreement over pay and benefits as well as internal structures, such as the city’s plan to add a third captain.
According to a Sun Thisweek report, Mike Golen, the Minnesota Public Employee Association union director, says Lakeville's patrol officers already feel management is too top-heavy, and want money spent on adding more patrol officers, not managers.
City Administrator Steve Mielke noted that Sgt. Andy Bohlen's departure to become chief of police in Faribault will allow the city to add the captain, and that a patrol officer would then be used to back-fill the position open by promoting someone to captain.
According to Lakeville police, cities typically have one police officer per 1,000 residents. Lakeville has one officer per 1,100 residents.
Mielke also noted the city added a patrol officer to its rankes this year.
Meanwhile, Lakeville Officer Mike Katzovitz, a union steward, told Sun Thisweek that the department has lost five patrol officers in recent years to reassignment, such as Lakeville's new street crimes unit.
“They didn’t back-fill those positions,” Katzovitz told Sun Thisweek. “Patrol would like to see five officers replaced.”
Mielke said the city is always looking to maximise efficiency.
“Adding officers just for the sake of adding officers is not a prudent use of taxpayer dollars,” Mielke told Sun Thisweek.
Police officers earn between $50,107-$68,994, according to the 2011 contract. Captains earn between $88,675-$106,407.
Officers are also concerned about the implementation of 12-hour shifts, pay equity, inequities regarding overtime and holiday compensation, and health benefits.
If an agreement is not reached at the mediation session, Golen said the issue will go to arbitration.
As for taking it a step further—police are considered an essential service, so patrol officers cannot strike.