Police union and city begin mediated contract negotiations, agree to new mental health program

photo by: Journal-World Illustration

Lawrence Police Department logo, Lawrence City Hall

Representatives of the city and the local police officers union began mediated contract negotiations Wednesday.

Negotiations between the Lawrence Police Officers Association and the city are governed by a local resolution, which states that whenever a contract is negotiated, the negotiations are automatically considered to be at an impasse if they aren’t concluded by July 1. The city and LPOA have yet to agree on a compensation plan and several provisions dealing with management rights, and as such were required under the agreement to request the services of the U.S. government’s Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

Before heading into mediated negotiations Wednesday, which were closed to the public, the city and union did agree to add a provision to the contract dealing with mental health. Both sides agreed that the city and the LPOA would work together to implement a mental health wellness program for officers and detectives. The proposal goes on to state that the program would be included in the city manager’s 2020 recommended budget, and that details of the program will be established and identified in a letter of understanding between the city and LPOA.

Throughout negotiations, one of the main goals of the city has been making changes to the contract that city representatives say bring it in line with the city’s resolution regarding employee unions, which states that management has certain rights that are not negotiable. Those include the right to direct the work of employees; maintain the efficiency of governmental operations; and initiate, prepare, certify and administer the budget.

Toward the end of Wednesday’s meeting, LPOA Chairman Drew Fennelly handed city representatives a new proposal that he said covered all the major sticking points in the negotiation process. Fennelly said the proposal included “significant concessions” in the area of management rights and the LPOA is hoping to get concessions regarding pay in return. He said he would provide the proposal to the Journal-World Friday, which is when the next meeting between city and LPOA representatives is scheduled.

The resolution stipulates that if the negotiating parties are still at impasse one week after the first mediated discussion, the parties must then exchange their last proposals in writing on those unresolved issues. If impasse continues three days after the exchange, the proposals will be submitted to the City Commission and the commission will hold a public hearing and decide which proposal to accept.

Both sides agreed to cancel their previously scheduled meeting for Thursday to give the city time to look over the LPOA’s latest proposal. The next meeting between the city and the LPOA will be from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Friday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.

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