Go Home Alive – Here Endeth the Lesson

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Not since 9/11 has our police profession been so laden with stress and uncertainty. Officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge were killed in incidents that could easily have occurred here in Montgomery County, Maryland. Understandably, we are all paying more attention – to everything. That level of hyper-vigilance is stressful and tiring, but it is exactly what we should be doing. Sean Connery’s character Paul Malone said it best when he told Elliot Ness at the end of the day: “You just fulfilled the first rule of law enforcement: make sure when your shift is over you go home alive. Here endeth the lesson.”  And that is where the lesson ends.

Today we live and work in as dangerous an environment for policing as has ever existed. More and more individuals are willing to act in anger against police officers. As police officers, the possibility of being ambushed while running a routine call is not foreign to us. We know all too well that any call could be a set up. We train for it. Still, a very vocal segment of the public doesn’t understand that fact. Their minds are closed to the history of the hundreds of police officers who, while serving the community, have suffered a violent death in premeditated attacks in the United States.

These are difficult times for us, and more so for our families. Our families watch us leave for work as the television broadcasts images of officers perishing at the hands of angry gunmen. These days, when you are not at home, every siren sounds louder and clearer than ever before to those who wait for your return. Your commitment to duty is your family’s commitment to duty, and right now it weighs on them as much as it does on you.

Despite the anger in a disproportionately vocal segment of the population, know that you are loved, and not just by your families. You are loved by the vast majority of the people you serve. You are recognized as the wall between law and chaos. Evidenced by the heroic actions of your brothers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, you are the heroes in this community. Heroes who run towards danger to ensure everyone else gets home alive. The public knows you will continue to show up for work because it is what you do. Despite the disputes between police officers and the Montgomery County Government, despite the attacks on your wages and benefits in the editorial pages of local and national newspapers, you have shown up to work everyday of every year without exception.

The current spate of unjustified and cowardly violence against police will eventually subside and we will return to a more peaceful working environment. We may bury more sister and brother officers before it is over. Until then remember that you have been trained and equipped to handle these incidents. Trust your training, and follow Paul Malone’s first rule: go home alive. Do your job, but don’t expose yourself to unnecessary risks, or let fellow officers expose themselves. Look out for each other. Protect each other. Us contact and cover at all times. There is no such thing as a routine call right now. Keep abreast of what is going on nationwide so that you have the information you need to assess danger.

Make extra time for your families. They stress over you. Hug your kids, your spouse and your parents more often.  Take time off to do things at home. Use your leave, it is part of your compensation and you have a right to it. Eat well, sleep and get your exercise in so you are prepared to respond when the need arises.

Remember you have resources. The FOP is here to help you and your family in any way that we can. If you, or your family, needs assistance or needs to speak to someone about what is going on, you have benefits through the employee assistance program (EAP) 1-855-350-1750 or www.GuidanceResources.com, and through your health insurance. Even taking the time to talk with one another about what is going on will help. We are all experiencing the same thing though we may feel it in our own unique way. We remain a family, and need to behave like a family, now more than ever. Be the heroes that you are, but be safe doing it.

COUNTY COUNCIL AND POLICE PAY

Montgomery County police officers collectively bargain over pay, hours and working conditions under the Montgomery County Code. Matters subject to bargaining, the timeline for bargaining, and the means of resolving an impasse are all laid out in the law. An agreement reached under our law is binding on the FOP and the County Executive. It can be enforced by either party on the other. But the County Council still has a say.

The County Council must vote on legislation required to implement a provision of the contract.  An agreement to change our retirement benefits would require a change in the retirement law. The change would be submitted as a bill, debated, and voted on by all councilmembers.

The Council also has the sole power to appropriate money. So it decides whether to fund or not to fund any provision of the contract requiring an allocation of money. Our compensation comes in the form of wages and benefits which must be budgeted and funded in any fiscal year.

The Council must indicate on or before May 1 whether they intend to fund the compensation for the upcoming budget year. This allows a period to renegotiate the agreement so it can be passed by the Council.

This year we negotiated a 1% pay increase and the restoration of a 3.5% increment for officers missing increments.

On April 26, 2016, the Council unanimously voted to reject funding our restored 3.5% increment. We met with the County Executive and agreed to amend the contract to address the Council’s concerns. It was sent back to the Council. The Council will take it up again on Monday, May 16, 2016.

The Council should honor our agreement. It was reached through give and take by both parties. Years ago, the Council took unprecedented action in withholding funding for service increments. Since that time some of us have been working for up to 7% less than we were promised when hired. Meanwhile, the Council has continued to spend, including spending on their own raises. It’s time to restore the pay promise to police officers.

You can help by actively supporting your Contract. Watch for information for the date of the Council vote. Come to the Council meeting for the vote and let them see us – the families affected by the vote. Bring your family. Call and email the councilmembers and ask your family, friends and neighbors to do the same. The County Council must hear that the community supports us.  The County Council must hear from US that our pay is important to us.  They must know we need it and that we are willing to fight for it. It is YOUR money. YOU have to stand up for it.