The village of Brookfield has a new four-year contract with its police officers and sergeants after village trustees voted on March 23 to ratify the deal unanimously. The contract is retroactive to Jan. 1 and will expire Dec. 31, 2023.
It’s one of three union contracts village officials have been negotiating in recent months. Deals are still pending with union firefighters and public works employees, and Village Manager Timothy Wiberg said the hope is to stagger the expiration dates of the contracts in order to avoid having to renegotiate all of them at the same time in the future.
The latest round of negotiations have had the additional challenge of taking place at a time when the village is without someone handling human resources.
“It makes a real difference doing all three contracts at once,” Wiberg said. “I would like to do one a year, so we’ll see what happens with the other two.”
Negotiations for the new police union contract for the second straight time were smooth, said Wiberg. The deal was hammered out over three sessions that Wiberg described as “professional and cordial.”
The contract calls for base pay raises of 2.5 percent each year, although actual raises for junior officers will be higher due to step increases built into the salary table.
Police officers are eligible for step raises in addition to the base pay raise through their seventh year on the force. Those step raises help push the pay of junior officers closer to their more experienced counterparts quickly.
For example, the starting pay for a new police officer on Jan. 1, 2020 is $65,291, according to the pay table in the contract.
By the final year of the contract, including step raises plus base pay raises, that officer’s salary in 2023 will be $87,276, a total pay increase during that time of almost 34 percent.
The entry salary for a sergeant in 2020 is $104,873. Sergeants are eligible for two step raises after that. In 2022, that junior sergeant’s annual base pay will have increased to $116,230, a total jump of about 11 percent.
Lieutenants and other members of the command staff are not part of the union contract.
Language in the new contract includes one potentially significant change that could lead to substantial cost savings to the village related to health insurance premiums.
The police union has agreed to allow the village to evaluate options for joining an insurance cooperative and replace the insurance plans currently offered with new ones. Wiberg confirmed that the village is contemplating joining a municipal insurance cooperative.
“Quite honestly, we’ve been looking into this for over a year as a way to save money,” said Wiberg. “We can get the same level of coverage and save a significant amount of money.”
Wiberg said he doesn’t have any firm figure at this time, but estimated that joining an insurance cooperative could save the village “hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.”
“We’re not in the strongest financial position to begin with, so it makes a lot of sense to make a change,” Wiberg said.
The move to a cooperative, however, is contingent on all three union contracts including the same language.
“The bottom line is, if we don’t get it in all of the agreements, we won’t make the change,” Wiberg said.
The new police contract also eliminates the physical fitness requirement, which involved annual testing for strength, endurance and flexibility. It included such tests as a 1.5-mile run and a 3-mile walk, situps, pushups and bench press.
Once a common part of police contracts, Wiberg said such requirements have been subject to legal challenges and that failure to meet physical fitness standards came with no real disciplinary action.
“It became an administrative nightmare,” Wiberg said. “There were no repercussions if someone didn’t pass it.”