Doral cops get first union contract

Doral’s police officers have their first union contract since the department was created six years ago.

The two-year deal includes raises, but officers will remain “at-will” employees, meaning they can be fired with or without cause.

The City Council approved the contract last week after five years of negotiations. It expires Sept. 30, 2016.

Simone Lopez, assistant general counsel for the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, told the council that while the union was pleased with the much-anticipated agreement, it lacked a “just-cause for terminations” clause that would trigger binding arbitration if an officer contested his or her firing.

“We want them to feel that this is home, and they have job security,” she said, adding that the council could still add such a provision later on.

The council unanimously approved the agreement as presented, and Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz said she supports adding a just-cause provision to the agreement through a future memorandum of understanding. The council agreed to discuss the matter later.

The contract also gives officers who have not topped out in their pay ranges a 3 percent raise starting with the first pay period after ratification. Another 3 percent raise is coming Oct. 1, at the beginning of the city’s next fiscal year.

Police Chief Richard Blom told the council it behooved him to get his officers the best contract he could to keep cops in Doral, which currently has 106 sworn officers.

“I don’t want my people going to other cities because the pay is better there,” he said. “I just want to be competitive.”

On Monday, he said the rank-and-file seem to be happy to have a contract at all, even if without a just-cause provision.

He called such a clause a “double-edged sword” because sometimes arbitrators rule in favor of cops who shouldn’t be in law enforcement. He said that as chief, he has emphasized referring to the department’s policies and procedures when making personnel decisions, but he understands if officers worry about what could happen under future leadership.

“An at-will policy works very well when you have a police chief who’s fair and goes by the book,” he said. “But some officers are concerned, and I can understand that. They want some protection from a future chief.”

Under the contract, Doral’s officers enter into to the Florida Retirement System, the state’s pension plan for government workers.

Follow @joeflech on Twitter.

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