The police union and the city came to an agreement, which was ratified on Wednesday, after St. Paul police officers continued to work under their previous contract for more than a year and a half after it had expired.
Over the course of the three-year contract period, the deal provides for officer increases totaling 9.5 percent. According to Mark Ross, president of the St. Paul Police Federation, wages had been the major source of contention throughout contract talks, and arbitration was about to be requested when a deal was made.
According to a statement released on Wednesday by Kamal Baker, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter’s spokesman, “the contract further supports our Community-First Public Safety program that involves a variety of initiatives, including supporting our ability to employ up to our authorized sworn strength.”
There were 583 employees working for St. Paul’s police force as of the end of August, despite the city’s permitted strength of 619 policemen. According to the police department, 54 officers departed the St. Paul department last year, with six joining other law enforcement organizations.
In a letter to Carter’s office before he left his position as chief of police in St. Paul earlier this year, Todd Axtell expressed concern that the city would keep losing officers to “other agencies that provide greater compensation and more comprehensive benefits.”
Axtell said that the state Legislature recently upped the top pay for the Minnesota State Patrol by more than 10% and that the Minneapolis suburb of Maple Grove recently adopted a police contract that raises base pay by 3% yearly in addition to a general increase of 10%.
Due to the current competition for experienced police officers, some agencies have opted to offer their personnel “significant market adjustments,” according to Ross.
According to Baker, the most recent two-year contracts for other municipal worker unions result in 3.5 percent salary increases between 2021 and 2022. The last to be resolved was the police contract.
According to Ross, under the current agreement, a patrol officer recruited in St. Paul today will earn $69,783 annually as opposed to $67,420 in 2020.
A three-year veteran officer would earn $82,992 as opposed to $80,420 in 2020. After three to five years on the job, officers may earn top pay in other departments, but that is not the case in St. Paul.
A three-year veteran officer would earn $82,992 as opposed to $80,420 in 2020. According to Ross, an officer in St. Paul must start their 19th year of service before earning top pay, unlike other departments where this may happen after three to five years on the job. It will move to when they’re beginning their 18th year, as of Jan. 1 under the new contract.
Ross expressed his happiness that they had been able to come to a contract agreement. The fact is that it still puts us in a hard situation with regard to recruiting and retention, and that’s what we’re trying to correct, he said. “It was an awareness from the city about doing better to bring us closer to where we needed to be.
The contract contains backpay retroactive to the termination of the prior contract. This translates to a pay increase of 1% retroactively effective January 1, 2021; 2% effective January 1, 2022; 0.5 % effective July 1; 2.5 % effective November 1; and 3.5 % effective March 1.
The increased pay rates from the police contract are included in Carter’s planned budget for the following year. The budgets for 2021 and 2022 were developed using projections for the police contract and are quite close to the actual figures, although Baker noted that the contracted increases for 2022 “are somewhat higher than projected.”
Except for the chief, assistant chief, and deputy chiefs, the Federation is the union that represents all of the department’s officers. Approximately 20 employees of the Ramsey County Emergency Communications Center are also represented by the police union.
Without debate, the city council approved the deal on Wednesday as part of its consent agenda.