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Bainbridge, police union at impasse over contract

Negotiations have broken down between the city of Bainbridge Island and its police union over a new contract.

The city and the Bainbridge Island Police Guild have been talking about a new contract for well more than a year, but both sides now acknowledge they are at an impasse.

An outside party will be called in to help resolve the divergent views.

“We’ve actually agreed that we are not making progress and we are headed to mediation,” said City Manager Doug Schulze.

After initial scheduling delays, contract talks continued through late February but stalled over economic issues.

“We actually made quite a bit of progress on the economic items. We are quite a distance apart on the economic package,” Schulze said.

The city and union will now work to find a mediator acceptable to both sides.

“We will get a list of mediators and go through a process of selecting from that list who we would like to help us,” Schulze said.

If the city and union can’t agree on a selection, a mediator will be appointed.

That said, the mediation process should not take long, Schulze said.

“I don’t think a mediator is going to need a whole lot of time to review where each side is and help us get to a point where, most likely, each side will be expected to make some compromise,” he said.

If an agreement can’t be reached through mediation, the contract with go to arbitration, which is binding.

The city and its police officers have been working under an extension of the three-year contract approved in 2008.

After a series of starts and stops, the police guild submitted a proposal for a new contract in early 2013, and city officials have been careful not to disclose the issues under negotiation for the new agreement.

During earlier discussions, issues under consideration as talk continued on a new agreement included changes to health care benefits, job security, salary increases and the take-home policy for police vehicles.

Also under consideration more recently has been the makeup of the union itself.

The police guild currently includes the department’s four lieutenants, who serve as first-line managers in the Bainbridge department.

The city has worked to remove the four lieutenants from the union that represents the department’s rank and file since last year, after multiple reviews by outside consultants found the current structure of the city’s police union was problematic and was to blame for a lack of accountability and poor morale.

A consultant report cited “flagrant incidents of insubordination that go unchecked” by the lieutenants and noted that officers were afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation because two of the lieutenants were serving as the president and vice president of the police guild.

Bainbridge officials have asked the state Public Employment Relations Commission to remove the four lieutenants from the police guild, and a hearing has been set for March 13.

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