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November 28, 2012

New Albany board of works receives police union complaint

FOP alleging staffing requirements weren’t met for a shift

NEW ALBANY — A grievance filed Nov. 12 over a police staffing issue was taken under consideration Tuesday by the New Albany Board of Public Works and Safety.

The complaint alleges New Albany Police Chief Sherri Knight failed to maintain the mandatory five officer staffing level for a shift in November. Knight should have called-in additional officers to meet the staffing demand based on an overtime list, said NAPD Sgt. John Hall, who is president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 99.

According to Knight, there were more than five officers on duty for the shift in question, but some of them attended a training session. But Hall countered that the training wasn’t held in New Albany.

“They weren’t here, they were out of town,” Hall said.

He cited the FOP’s contract with the city that states a minimum of five officers “shall” be on active duty per shift. That section of the contract supersedes other language in the agreement regarding staffing levels, Hall said.

The police administration “doesn’t have the broad stroke” to adjust schedules when the word shall is used in the contract to define staffing procedures, Hall continued.

Knight countered that such staffing adjustments are common for training sessions. She added the officers assigned to the shift in question were informed on Oct. 17 that the training was available, providing ample time to adjust the schedule to cover for the cops that attended the event.

Knight said it was an “excellent training” opportunity.

Staffing is a safety issue  not just for residents but also for police officers, Hall said. It’s important that manpower not drop to less than five officers per shift in New Albany and that’s why it’s required in the contract, he continued.

“This was something that was seen as an issue by the FOP years ago,” Hall said.

Board member Warren Nash moved to take the matter under advisement.

According to the contract, the board of works has 15 days to rule on a grievance after it receives a complaint. If the board of works doesn’t make a decision, the matter can be taken to arbitration.

Hall said he’s willing to extend the deadline for the board of works if the body decides it needs more time.

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