LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) - The City of Lawton and Lawton Police Officers Association have begun annual negotiations for union contracts for Lawton police officers.
On the table are officers’ salaries, benefits and guidelines.
The Lawton Police Officers Association has submitted a proposal for collective bargaining to the City of Lawton, but as of Tuesday, they’ve yet to receive a counter-offer from the City.
City officials say Lawton police officers have the best pay in Southwest Oklahoma, with a base salary at just under $41,000.
Executive union board member Michael Porter said comparing Lawton with other smaller towns in the area, like Duncan, is like comparing apples and oranges.
“When they start comparing in those ways,” Porter said, “it’s disheartening for us because we don’t look at that we are in that same neighborhood. Are we police officers? Yes, but we actually do and we provide more to the citizens than those other cities provide to them, so the comparison just isn’t legitimate in our book.”
A recent study found that LPD is about 32-35% behind cities of comparable size across the entire state when it’s comes to pay and other benefits.
“If you looked at let’s say Oklahoma City,” Porter said, “they have 600,000 people, so there’s six times as much. Kind of with that logic would mean that we’d be being paid 2400 hundred dollars less than say Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Edmond, places that are comparable to our crime rates, our populations, the amount of calls that we take and the amount of officers that we have.”
When we asked the Deputy City Manager if he thought the City could meet the union’s requests, he declined to comment.
“I’d rather not comment on that,” Hadley said. “That is part of negotiations and I think it’s unfair to talk about the negotiation process at this point. I don’t want to characterize their offer in any manner, positive or negative.”
He sees the comparison in a different light than union officials do.
“Is it unfair for Oklahoma City to compare themselves to anybody because they’re the largest? We’re the largest city in Southwest Oklahoma,” Hadley said. “Obviously, the economic engines and the tax rates and what citizens in Southwest Oklahoma can afford are different than what can be afforded in Oklahoma City metro area, Tulsa metro area and those places.”
According to Hadley, the City’s turnover rates are comparable to cities of other sizes, but Porter says they need a plan to continue recruiting officers and keeping them with benefits like educational pay and bilingual pay that other cities have.
“If we don’t have a plan, I think in 10 years or so,” Porter said, “the officers that are here right now are going to have an issue in the same spot we are right now of being that much further behind trying to find out a way to either keep these people here, to get people here and to make sure that we can stay and keep the public safe with the amount of people that we have with the drive they have.”
Hadley, on the other hand says, the turnover rate at the Lawton Police Department is average, compared to other cities with a similar population.
Representatives from the City of Lawton and Lawton Police Officers Association are meeting Wednesday to continue bargaining.