Clarksville FOP hires attorney as they work without new contract - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Clarksville FOP hires attorney as they work without new contract

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CLARKSVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) – The Clarksville Fraternal Order of Police has declared an impasse in its contract negotiations with the town.

The contract officers had been working with for the past four years expired Dec. 31, 2016. Leaders with the FOP approached the town leaders in September 2016 to initiate contract negotiations. Both sides met a few times before the year ended, but no agreement was ever reached. Since Jan. 1, officers have been working under the conditions of the old contract.

The FOP’s attorney, Larry Wilder, said officers asked the town to provide an offer each time they met with the town manager, Kevin Baity, and town attorney, Chris Sturgeon. Wilder said each time an offer was never made.

Baity said there was “open discussions and good dialogue” each time they met with FOP representatives.

“They asked us to present a proposal to them,” Baity said. “And during the couple times we’ve actually sat down with them, the people representing the police union has changed.”

Wilder argued it does not matter which officers came to the table for the discussion.

“It doesn’t matter who’s sitting there,” Wilder said. “The offer is what the offer is. The exchange in negotiations come from that offer.”

Wilder said since the town never presented an offer in order to allow negotiations, the officers felt justified to declare an impasse.

“Some go quickly, some do not,” said Baity, referring to contract negotiations. “It’s not unusual for some to extend out over four, six, eight months. To say that this has been going on for a long time –- it may be a long period of time, but the discussions and negotiations really haven’t been at the level that they probably need to be.”

One point of disagreement revolves around the officers’ pay. Baity said officers are “compensated very fairly.”

“When you look at other communities in southern Indiana, the organization is very similar to that," Baity said. "And one thing that I would like to stress is that the benefits that they received cannot be matched by any other community in the area.”

Wilder disagreed, citing salary and arrest statistics from other nearby departments.

"The Clarksville Police officers make 16 percent less than the New Albany Police Department,” Wilder said. “They make 10 percent less than the Jeffersonville Department. And they have more arrests than all of those departments on an annual basis."

Wilder added that Clarksville officers are the second-lowest paid officers in all town police departments in the state of Indiana. And he said Clarksville officers make more arrests than any other town law enforcement in the state.

Officers worry that if the contract negotiations are not worked out, it could negatively affect the force.

"Last year, there were only 12 applicants to become Clarksville police officers,” Wilder said. “They lost police officers to other forces. They lost officers last year to non-police jobs."

Wilder wanted to reassure the public that officers will continue to work their jobs to the highest standards, even without a new contract. But the officers hope the town leaders will listen to their requests.

“They just want to be treated fairly,” Wilder said. “Hell! They just want to have a conversation. This is like going on a date and your date won’t talk to you.”

Baity said the town council will discuss the topic of contract negotiations during executive session after next Tuesday’s regularly scheduled town council meeting.

“The police officers are very important to our community, and we hope we convey that frequently,” Baity said.

He added, “Hopefully they’ll understand that this is a work in progress.”

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