ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Civilian members of the St. Louis County Police Department staff on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis are among those getting raises after the County Council unanimously approved their first-ever union contract Tuesday – a process that’s been 18 months in the making.
Emergency management personnel, 911 dispatchers, police aides, forensic scientists are included in the approximately 330 employees who will benefit from the approximately $2 million in approved raises.
“Our jobs would be impossible without the work of the dedicated civilian staff,” said Joe Patterson, executive director of the police union and a former county police officer. “Police officers on the street could not do his or her job without them.”
Efforts to approve a contract for the civilian staff date to former County Executive Steve Stenger’s administration and has lasted through his replacement, Sam Page, Patterson said.
The St. Louis County Police Association, which represents the professional staff, harshly criticized the Page administration in a letter just last week after the contract failed to get council approval again. In it, the union said the Page administration sat on the contract for five months, and urged Chairwoman Lisa Clancy and Councilman Mark Harder not to pass it during the March 24 meeting because of a deficit in the Prop P fund.
St. Louis County voters approved Prop P in 2017, which brought in an additional $50 million to county coffers in sales tax revenues.
Chief Jon Belmar pledged to have two-man cars on patrol should voters pass the measure – which has not happened on a consistent basis. Department officials say two-man cars are available “when manpower permits.”
Belmar’s predecessor, Tim Fitch, now a county councilman, proposed Tuesday to take 26 positions intended to create two-man cars that have remained vacant to pay for the raises for the civilian staff.
“These are the very people working the crisis,” Fitch said. “They are the emergency management people, the 911 dispatchers, these are professionals the officers depend on.
“This is something that should have been dealt with more than a year ago and it has sat on the desk of two county executives now unbeknownst to us on council. This is the right thing to do for the employees on the front line every day working for us to get us through this crisis.”
Fitch said the raises will take effect when Page signs the legislation – and he has 15 days to do it. So, for the first year, it will cost about $1.3 million, he said.
Page is expected to sign the legislation Wednesday, according to his spokesperson, Doug Moore.
Moore said he had "not seen" the union's criticisms of Page's handling of the matter.
Police union leaders called the council’s vote “historic,” according to Joe Patterson, a former county police officer and now executive director of the union.
“For the first time ever, every single front-line employee working for the county police department is covered under a labor contract,” he said. “This was a culmination of nearly two years of hard work by the county police association and today we feel proud that nearly 330 families can look forward to a better wage.
“I think it’s been a matter of will. There was no willingness to get this done for a long time.”
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