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Syracuse reaches tentative agreement with police union over contract

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO File Photo
Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner, left, with Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, center, earlier this year.

The city of Syracuse has reached a tentative agreement with the police union over a four-and-a-half year contract. It still needs to be voted on by the union and Syracuse Common Council. The proposed contract includes a residency requirement, pay raises, and a potential change in officers’ shift schedule. 

New police officers would be required to live in the city for their first five years of service. Frank Caliva, chief administrative officer for the city, said it’s similar to what’s required of the fire department.

“It’s an important point,” Caliva said. “The mayor had made it a point in his campaign that he wanted a reasonable residency requirement in the contract, and we think that we achieved that. It supports what the chief is attempting to do, to continue making connections between the police force and the community.”

If the police department can reach 450 officers, the city will try a one-year pilot program, changing their schedule from eight hour to 10 hour shifts. Caliva said the change has the potential to save on overtime and give officers more consolidated days off.

“Right now, because we’re so thin, officers go from call to call to call and there’s very little time for proactive policing, proactive community outreach," Caliva said. "The chief is adamant that will change. An increase in the number of officers available, and a change in the schedule, would allow the chief to be able to do that.”

The agreement also has a 2.5% retroactive salary increase for 2018 of $800,000, followed by annual 2% increases. There are financial incentives for higher education, second languages and military service. Pay raises on a "longevity scale" are designed to keep officers around longer. Increases for sergeants, lieutenants, and captains are meant to encourage officers to take on higher ranks.

Caliva said if every officer took advantage of every provision, which won’t happen, it would total an extra $12 million over the life of the contract. 

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.