For the first time ever, the village of Riverside and union police officers have agreed to a five-year contract. The contract was approved unanimously by village trustees as part of the omnibus agenda at the village board’s Sept. 21 meeting.

Both sides have been working to hammer out an agreement since the previous four-year deal expired on Dec. 31, 2016. The main points of contention, said Police Chief Thomas Weitzel were the length of the contract, increases in base salary over the term of the deal and shift schedules.

“One of the things I wanted and the village wanted was the five-year contract,” said Weitzel.

A particularly important issue for both sides was shift scheduling. More and more, police unions are pushing for 12-hour shifts, which guarantees officers at least three days off each week.

Riverside police officers work one of three permanent eight-hour shifts, something Weitzel said he prefers. In exchange for this contract, said Weitzel, management and the union agreed to form a committee to look at alternative scheduling for the future to see if it can work for a small department like Riverside’s.

“We didn’t shut the door and say no,” Weitzel said, “but we really need to research how this benefits the village. Twelve-hour shifts can work well in larger departments, but in departments under 25 officers it can become problematic.”

Weitzel said with officers having three days off a week, it could be a challenge to fill out shifts when also factoring in vacation time, personal days, sick days and officers serving active-duty military tours. Presently, Riverside has one patrol officer serving in the U.S. Navy until August 2018.

While shifts can be filled by officers working overtime, that solution can lead to burnout, said Weitzel.

“In the end, we just came to an agreement to form a committee to research whether it can be done,” Weitzel said.

The new contract does provide base pay raises in each year of the deal. For the first three years of the contract, patrol officers and sergeants receive base pay raises of 2.5 percent. The base pay increases in years three and four to 2.75 percent.

But patrol officers and sergeants also are eligible for step raises, which will increase their salaries at a rate greater than the base pay raise. For example, the starting salary for a patrol officer in Riverside is $68,938. 

With step raises after years one and two on the force, that same officer’s salary in 2019 would be $87,115, an increase of 26.3 percent.

By the final year of the contract, a Riverside patrol officer who has been on the force for 7 years will make $101,419 in base pay.

The entry-level salary for a sergeant in 2017 is $102,404. After two years, with a step raise, that sergeant’s salary would be $109,509, an increase of 7 percent. The top annual salary for a sergeant with at least nine years at that rank in 2021 will be $120,686.

Lieutenants and other command staff are not part of the union contract.

Riverside’s salary schedule is more generous than many neighboring communities. The starting 2017 salary for a patrol officer in Brookfield, which is almost twice the size of Riverside, is $60,465. In North Riverside, a starting patrol officer in 2017 makes $57,563.

“It’s a very competitive atmosphere out there,” said Weitzel, who said the village’s salary schedule and opportunities for training make Riverside attractive to officers who otherwise might want to work in larger communities.

Other than salary increases and a promise to look at scheduling in the future, the new contract contains few changes. Officers still must contribute 15 percent toward their health insurance premiums, a figure agreed to in their previous contract. They also continue to get the same amount of vacation days and paid holidays.