We're Taking Your Money Back. E-mail
Written by APB Staff   
In Tampa, Florida, the city council recently voted 5-1 to suspend step plan increases for the roughly 500 police officers that are eligible. The council also voted to accept Mayor Pam Iorio's plan to force 65 officers who have received raises since the beginning of the fiscal year to pay back the money.

Five dollars will be deducted from the paychecks of those 65 officers until the raises are "paid back."

The decision outraged police union officials who attended the meeting.

"If they do that, I can assure you we will file an unfair labor practice," Greg Stout, president of the Tampa Police Benevolent Association told reporters from the Associated Press. "I don't care if it's a dollar a month. Our hardworking police officers deserve that money."

Councilman Joseph Caetano cast the only vote in favor of the raises.

Off-duty police officers and their family members, some of whom wore T-shirts that read, "In Memory of Corporal Mike Roberts," who was killed in the line of duty last August, packed the council chambers for the public hearing. City officials had to ask some officers to leave because the room was getting so crowded.

Magistrate John McCollister recently sided with the city on the issue of step increases. He recommended that the increases be frozen this fiscal year but reinstated next year barring "an unanticipated catastrophe."

The union had already agreed to forgo cost-of-living increases.

Diane Morton, attorney for the police union, said that the step plan was not just about raises. She said it's a critical recruitment tool that helps the department attract the best and brightest officers.

For officers who were promised step increases this year, freezing the plan until next fiscal year would be a "slap in the face," Morton told reporters."

"To freeze the plan now would mean that they worked last year for nothing," she said.

Morton said law enforcement officers are different from other municipal employees because of the dangerous nature of the job and described the police officers as soldiers. "There are soldiers and there are civilians," she said. "These are your soldiers."

Mayor Iorio imposed a wage freeze and provided no funding for city employee raises in the fiscal 2010 budget to fill a $51 million shortfall. She said raises and other concessions for the police department alone would cost the city's taxpayers more than $4.8 million and likely lead to widespread layoffs and service cuts.

But Oscar Cardoso, an accountant hired by the police union to conduct an analysis of the city's fiscal 2010 budget, said the city's figures were inflated. He said the city could afford to pay its officers step increases by tapping into its $82 million reserve fund.

"There's plenty of money in the city's reserves to pay for the increases," Cardoso told reporters.

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