Capitol Police approve new contract

It’s the first new contract in six years for the union, which had been operating under its previous contract. In a 24-hour vote held in the Capitol Visitor Center, 257 union members voted for the agreement and 18 voted against it.

Union officials said they had hoped for a larger turn out from the approximately 800 officers in the union. Capitol Police’s total force has about 1,800 sworn officers.

The chairman of the Capitol Police labor committee, Jim Konczos, heralded the new contract, which took six months to negotiate.

Konczos said the union’s bargaining committee was able to get a number of new rights for officers and added that the union’s relationship with department officials was stronger because of the negotiations.

Capitol Police Chief Phillip Morse echoed Konczos’ sentiments on Thursday, saying that the renegotiating process went smoothly.

“The department looks forward to working with the chairman and the union under the new contract,” said Morse in an e-mail. “It was a productive and cooperative negotiation process for both parties. It meets our mutual goals of a safe, fair, and equitable working environment.”

Konczos took the helm of the police union last year and made renegotiating its contract with the department his first priority. He had hoped to bring it to a vote by January, but the line-by-line negotiations with the department took longer than expected.

The previous labor committee put forward a contract last year before Konczos became chairman. But after two years of negotiations, the proposed agreement was defeated with 277 officers voting against it and 15 officers voting for it.

“Where the last effort failed, this one succeeded and the contract stands on its own merits,” said Konczos.

Much of the contract is similar to the previous one, though there are a few changes, which union officials described as significant. The contract does not make changes to officer pay, which is determined by the chief of police in conjunction with a congressional oversight panel.

The new contract will require officers to be given at least eight hours of on-duty time if they are asked to work on their days off, instead of the occasional four-hour shift that puts officers who live farther away at a disadvantage, said the chief bargaining officer for the union, Keith McFadden.

The agreement will also make permanent an unwritten rule requiring officers to take at least eight hours off from work for every 16 hours on duty before they are allowed to work again, McFadden said.

The contract language creates a point system to be used in choosing union officers to assist the dignitary protection unit with special events, like the 2008 presidential conventions.

Whereas the selection system used to be based on what McFadden called a “good ole boy” network of preference, officers will now earn points for seniority, meritorious awards and foreign language skills, among several other categories.

New union stewards will be added to the labor committee’s ranks as well, making it easier for officers to air their grievances and keep up to date on union news. There will be one steward for every 50 officers in each section.

Another shift in the contract will make it so that officers begin accruing their seniority from the moment they are sworn in. McFadden criticized previous calculations based on an officer’s seniority as arbitrary.