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By Matt Sheley, Town of Middletown

The town of Middletown has a new contract with  its police officers. 

According to details of the new four-year deal announced during tonight’s Town Council  meeting, both the town and Middletown Fraternal Order of Police union made concessions  to get the agreement done. 

The biggest change brought on by the contract was police officers move from a 12-hour  work shift to an eight-hour shift. In return, all new police hires after July 1, 2021, no longer get a traditional defined benefit pension but are enrolled in a 401-K style retirement plan instead.  

Police officers also gave up two raises totaling 4 percent due in their current contract,  which was set to expire in June 30, 2021. Instead, they’ll receive a 1 percent raise on Jan. 1,  2023 and a 2 percent raise in June 30, 2024. 

“I want to express my sincere appreciation to the men and women of the Middletown Police Department for their ratification of the new police contract, which we as a Council formally ratified tonight,” council President Robert J. Sylvia said. “We know it has been a challenging time for our front-line responders, and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a simple thank you just does not seem enough.” 

Union President David Guerriero, a Middletown Police Community Policing Officer and K-9  Officer, said he and the rest of the department were very appreciative of the council’s  willingness to work together on the contract.  

“The body is happy that we were able to get the contract done, especially with everything  going on in the world,” Guerriero said. “We feel that though both sides conceded things,  that in the end, we came to an agreement that not only was fair to both sides, but benefitted  the town’s residents, both immediately and in the future.” 

In early 2012, Middletown Police moved from an eight-hour to 12-hour workday. At the  time, town officials said the main driver was to reduce the cost of overtime. 

After the changes went into effect, the response was a mixed bag. While it did help reduce  the cost of overtime somewhat, many officers said 12 hours was a long time to work and  stay fresh and sharp on a job that demands it. 

During this round of negotiations, the police union asked to revisit the shift situation, citing  quality of life, performance and health issues. Most Police Departments in Rhode Island  operate under the eight-hour shift model. 

Finding common ground on the shift length item, both sides were able to give and take to  strike a fair balance.  

According to figures from the town, the contract was expected to result in $285,000 in new  costs over the four-year pact, or about $71,000 a year.  

The town was also expected to see a 1.7 percent savings annually with each new hire after  July 1, 2021. Town officials said the 401-K payments would be more predictable than the  defined benefit pension system, which was subject to the whims of the stock market more. 

Town officials said the FOP okayed the contract earlier this month by a wide margin. It took  the town’s top-elected body until tonight to ratify the agreement because it’s the council’s  lone meeting this month. 

“Tonight’s four-year contract in my opinion was the result of open, honest, face-to-face conversations, with both sides understanding the current state of the state that we as a community and country are going through,” Sylvia said. “The negotiating team echoed the police union desires by showing compassion for our residents, many who have lost their jobs and to the unknown changes ahead of us going forward as a town, asking for the minimal considerations. They are to be commended for their unselfish dedication. 

“I also want to thank FOP Local 21 President – David Guerriero and the entire FOP negotiating team who met with (council) Vice President (Paul) Rodrigues and myself, for their professionalism and time in seeing that we worked out a fair agreement and that we did so in a professional, respectfully way.” 

In response, Guerriero agreed, saying the officers of the Middletown Police Department are always willing to do their share. 

“We had hit a point where the 12-hour shifts were really draining our members physically and mentally,” Guerriero said. “The hope is that the change to the eight-hour shifts will be a positive change and help our mental and physical health moving forward. This will translate into consistency for the citizens of the town and the continued positive relationships between our members and those citizens.”