Police union and city representatives reach some agreements regarding schedule changes

photo by: Journal-World Illustration

Lawrence Police Department logo, Lawrence City Hall

City officials and representatives of the local police officers union have come to some tentative agreements regarding schedule changes for officers and detectives.

At a contract negotiations meeting Thursday afternoon, representatives for the city and the Lawrence Police Officers Association discussed how much notice and how many hours of off-duty time officers should be provided when a supervisor changes their assigned shift.

As currently written, the agreement states that at least one week of notice will be provided when the department changes an officer’s “regular work schedule.” Police Chief Gregory Burns Jr. said this might be done, for instance, in the case of emergencies or if several people who are assigned to a certain shift retire or quit. The agreement also states that reasonable effort will be made to provide 24 hours of off-duty time between these schedule changes.

Union representatives said those requirements were necessary due to safety issues, while city representatives were concerned that the agreement didn’t provide flexibility for emergencies.

Regarding the required off-duty time between schedule changes, LPOA Chairman Drew Fennelly said that not ensuring a minimum amount of rest after a change to an officer’s assigned shift can be a problem, especially if an officer were to be switched between a night shift and a day shift.

“I think we can reduce the number of hours (between shifts), but I wouldn’t want to reduce it very much because I think it’s a safety issue,” Fennelly said.

City Manager Tom Markus, however, said the amount of notice currently required does not provide an exception in the event of some kind of emergency. The city then came back with a new proposal, stating that a reasonable effort will be made to provide at least 8 hours of off-duty time between work cycles.

The LPOA and the city tentatively agreed on that change, which means they still have the option to go back and discuss it during negotiations.

However, the city and LPOA disagreed on whether the contract should define a daily shift in more detail. The LPOA proposed that the contract should define the daily shifts of officers and detectives, providing a specific start and end time. Fennelly said he thinks officers should have an expectation that the regular workday won’t be changed without much notice.

The city, however, maintained that the contract should not specify work schedules beyond the standard 80-hour, two-week work period. Markus said the LPOA proposal would make any shift adjustments subject to negotiations, essentially taking away from management’s right to determine assignments.

“I would think that the hours of shifts, depending on needs of the department, would be a management right,” Markus said.

Fennelly said he disagreed with that interpretation.

The city and LPOA did reach a tentative agreement regarding the general definition of a shift and its structure. It was agreed that a shift would be defined as the number of consecutive hours a supervisor normally assigns an officer or detective to work, and that supervisors will make reasonable efforts not to split a shift.

The city’s employment agreement with the LPOA covers wages, benefits and working conditions for officers and detectives and expires at the end of this year. The next meeting between the city and the LPOA will be from 2 to 5 p.m. June 13 at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.


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