The Oak Lawn Village Board at its meeting on Tuesday approved a four-year collective bargaining agreement with the police union.
Village Manager Larry Deetjen said the agreement with Metropolitan Alliance of Police, Oak Lawn Chapter 309 is worthy of celebration, and unanimous endorsement by the six trustees.
The last contract ended in 2014, and Deetjen highlighted a couple of changes in the new one, which encompasses 2015-2018.
“For the first time, any new hires to the department will have to live in Illinois, and within 50 miles of the village,” said the village manager, who said after the meeting that currently some members of both the police and fire departments live in Indiana.
Deetjen also noted that the new contract also requires union members to beginning contributing a “slightly larger” amount of money toward their health insurance premiums. Currently, the village pays 90 percent of health insurance premiums for members of the police union, but Deetjen sad that over the life of the contract, the union members’ contribution will increase from 10 to 15 percent.
The contract also includes a 1 percent pay raise for members retroactive for 2015, and 2.5 percent annual raises for each of the next three years.
“This shows how things can get done with listening, cooperating and negotiating,” he said. “This was done between the village and the union, without any outside arbitrators,” he pointed out.
While Deetjen said it deserved unanimous support from the trustees, the vote to approve it was 5-1, with Trustee Bob Streit (3rd) being the lone dissenter.
“I, too, salute the Oak Lawn police officers and the fine work that they do…but I can’t in good conscience vote for this contract because there is a small part that would be detrimental to the village,” said Streit, pointing out that it allows police to report to work with a blood-alcohol level up to .04 percent.
“Noting that the legal limit for driving is .08 percent, that level is often referred to as half-drunk or buzzed,” said Streit. “It’s a safety issue,” he continued. Referring to the Laquan McDonald case in Chicago, he said, “I do not want to imagine what would happen if there was a police-involved shooting, and it turned out the officer had alcohol in his or her system.”
Streit asked that the language be reviewed and taken out of the contract, but other trustees dismissed his concerns and the vote went ahead.
Deetjen said the point about alcohol levels was not even brought up in negotiations, and is standard in contracts that he has been involved in.
“It has been in place for many years,” Trustee Alex Olejniczak said.
Trustee Terry Vorderer (4th), who retired after more than 30 years on the Oak Lawn Police Department, agreed with Olejniczak’s point, “and I think (Streit) knows it too,” he said.
Vorderer said the language is likely there because union members are subject to random tests for alcohol and drugs, and conceivably, a police officer could have had a couple of drinks the night before, and still have some alcohol remaining in the system the following day.
However, he said that the wording of the contract also allows for action to be taken against any officer who reports to work and appears or acts like they are under the influence of alcohol. “In that case, they would be sent home, and they could face disciplinary action,” he said.