Lombardi: Police contract ‘final piece of the puzzle’

Lombardi: Police contract ‘final piece of the puzzle’

NORTH PROVIDENCE – A new contract between the town and members of the North Providence Police Department Fraternal Order of Police No. 13 will save taxpayers money and give officers the financial security they deserve, said representatives for both sides this week.

“I'm happy, this is the final piece of the puzzle for the professional future of our department,” said Mayor Charles Lombardi, listing other “pieces” already in place as the addition of new department leaders and ongoing construction of a new public safety complex.

“Both sides put taxpayers first,” said Lt. Tom Jones, freshman president of the local FOP. This contract gives police the wages and benefits they need and makes the department competitive with surrounding towns in recruiting and retaining great officers, he said.

“It went better than we expected,” said Jones.

He cited a “new relationship working with the mayor's office” for resolving the years-long impasse over a contract.

FOP members voted 58-4 early in favor of the contract early last week. Neither side was providing a copy of the contract to The North Providence Breeze this week, saying the pact hadn’t yet been made official.

Lombardi and Jones were effusive in their praise of each other after coming to an agreement that gives police four annual pay increases. The five-year contract is retroactive going back to 2016, giving police a zero percent increase in 2016 and then raises in each of the next four years.

“Both sides bent a little bit,” said Jones, and “I think it was a win for everybody.”

According to Jones, the increases were 4 percent each for three years and then another bump of 3.5 percent. He called it a “gracious offer” from the mayor after he and others carefully explained everything a police officer goes through to get and keep a job on the force. Today’s officer receives extensive training “for that 1 percent of the time that something could happen,” he said, and each leaves for work not knowing whether they’ll come home at night.

“It’s always been my position to try to work out a contract for the good men and women of the department,” Lombardi responded, adding that the key change paving the way for a new contract was the election of Jones as FOP president last fall. Jones “does not want to be a politician,” he said, and that was a marked difference from former FOP President Dennis Stone.

“This did not take long once they held an election,” he said. “The negotiations have been going on for quite some time, but because of the leadership there and the mentality of the former leadership, it’s cost members of that department time to receive some additional compensation.”

After taking over last year, Jones said he thought taking a more positive approach could stretch beyond the benefit of having a better relationship with leaders and the public. Less combativeness could lead to the union getting more of what it asks for in negotiations, he told The Breeze at the time.

He didn’t place all blame on any one person for an impasse that began in 2016, citing contentious relationships in the department under former Acting Chief Chris Pelagio.

“I don’t blame the mayor, I don’t blame Stoney,” he said then. The Pelagio situation “kind of forced the mayor to have to draw a line in the sand, as well as us.”

During an arbitration process, police continue to work under the same contract terms year after year.

Ending the arbitration process and engaging in dialogue was an eye-opening move for Lombardi and good for police to be able to “explain reasons behind why we were asking for some of the things we asked for,” said Jones. There’s no doubt, he said, that Lombardi “spends the taxpayers’ dollars like it’s really his own,” and that’s good for the whole town.

Lombardi said Monday that the biggest positive in this contract is that taxpayers won’t be on the hook for giving large retroactive raises to anyone who retired in the last four years.

“That saved us a great deal of money,” he said.

Police will also be contributing more to their health insurance, said the mayor.

“It’s a very, very fair agreement,” he said. This agreement effectively gets rid of any lingering animosity and negativity, he added.

“I think right now we’re on a roll,” he said.

Also important, he said, was getting some common sense changes that Chief David Tikoian and Deputy Chief Arthur Martins had requested for greater efficiency in the department.

Comments

In my humble option....Lieutenant Jones, as both a sworn Police Officer and Union President you are an example for all others in the same shoes to both admire and strive for. Mayor Lombardi as a City leader you are a standout and a credit to the Blackstone Valley and the State of Rhode Island. All the fine men and woman of NPPD needed was understood structural leadership, which began with the choices that you made when filling the positions of Police Chief and Deputy Police Chief. Congratulations to all involved and as a taxpayer I tip my hat to you and your staff.

Wait till the teachers find out about this %4 for 3 years.