LPD, City Arbitration Hearing Begins - KSWO, Lawton, OK- Wichita Falls, TX: News, Weather, Sports. ABC, 24/7, Telemundo -

LPD, City Arbitration Hearing Begins

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LAWTON Okla_ The long labor fight between the City of Lawton and the police union moved to an arbitration hearing Monday.

As we've reported, one of the main sticking points is a change to their work week from a ten hour, four days per week schedule to an 8 hour, five days per week schedule. The city and police have been trying to work out a contract deal for more than nine months. Monday, both sides started to present their cases to an arbitration board to settle the dispute.

Last week, we brought you the union's side. It is one focused on the negative effects the shift change could have to the lifestyle and livelihood of the future of the police department and its officers. Monday, we learned why the city and the LPD's management continue to fight for the right to make the change to an 8-hour shift.

For the first time since the start of negotiations, we heard directly from the City of Lawton and Assistant Police Chief James Apple about why they took the fight to arbitration. Monday, the city said safety for the public as well as police is why it wants the 8-hour shifts. They say it would also cut down on overtime expenses. During his 4 hours of questioning, Apple and the city's attorney Tim Wilson brought forth evidence to support their case, highlighting the fact that the department has already exhausted more than 60 percent of its overtime budget only 5 months into the fiscal year.  Last month, there were only two days when no one was called in to work overtime.

Wilson said currently 18 officers short, LPD is a department in crisis when it comes to being able to put the proper amount of manpower on the streets each day. When asked by Union Attorney Jarred Lehman to provide specific instances when officer or public safety has been jeopardized on the current shift, Apple was unable to provide examples.

There were also no exact figures provided of just how much money the shift change would save the city in overtime costs. The numbers Apple expressed Monday show that the change would put more boots on the ground. With the 8-hour shift, the department's 82 patrol officers would be divided into nine teams, with two teams working at all times. That means 18 officers would be slated to be on the streets for every shift compared to the current 13. Apple said this would allow the police force to be more proactive than reactive.

The hearing adjourned for the day with the questioning of the city's director of human resources regarding hiring, department turnover, and comparisons with other area police departments. The arbitration hearing continues Tuesday morning at 9AM. No matter which side the arbitration board rules in favor of, the change will not be immediate. If the city wins, it must provide officers with 120 days notice before the shift change can occur. If the union wins, it will go before the city council and could ultimately go to a public vote.

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