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Syracuse police union, city agree on residency requirement proposal for cops

The proposal would require newly hired officers to live in Syracuse for their first five years on the job

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The skyline is seen on Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, in Syracuse, N.Y.

AP Photo/Mike Groll

By Chris Baker

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The city and the police union are prepared to move forward with an agreement that would require newly hired officers to live in Syracuse for their first five years on the job.

Both sides will head to arbitration next month, where a third party arbitrator will determine terms for a contract for police officers.

Heading into arbitration, though, they have a general agreement on those terms, including residency, according to Corey Driscoll Dunham, the city’s chief operating officer who is negotiating the contract.

“We have kind of a framework of things we’ve agreed to with PBA,” Dunham said. “There really, in our mind, wasn’t any reason to go back to the drawing board and start all over again.”

The city and the union reached a contract deal in 2019. But the Common Council rejected that contract, which would have added $19.5 million to the police budget over four-and-a-half years.

That original agreement included five years of residency as well as incentive bonuses for officers with military experience, higher education or proficiency in a second language. It also included big pay bumps for officers who stay with the department more than 20 years.

[READ: Should there be residency requirements for sworn personnel?]

That rejection forced the contract into arbitration, where an independent third party hears arguments and requests from both sides and then decides the terms. An arbitration hearing is scheduled for May 25. Since both sides generally agree on terms, Dunham said she expects it to move fast.

“We spent a year negotiating this contract. We put a lot of time and thought into the figures...PBA was satisfied with the provisions we’d already agreed to, so they weren’t asking for anything in addition to what we’d already negotiated,” Dunham said.

She added that things like residency and language incentives will help improve police-community relations, while longevity bonuses will help shore up staffing numbers after a spate of retirements in recent year.

Dunham said the city and union have continued negotiating fine points of a contract in the year since that initial agreement was rejected by the council. They kept most pieces of the original contract, but agreed that incentive bonuses wouldn’t be made retroactive, as originally proposed.

That will cut about $4 million from the cost of the contract over two years.

The council’s criticism last year arose from the cost of the contract. The original deal would have added about $19.5 million to the police budget over four-and-a-half years, mostly in pay and benefits for officers.

“We’ve shaved about $4 million off just through negotiating,” she said. “The feedback we got from the council was vague, but they said that cost was an issue.”

Police Benevolent Association President Joseph Moran confirmed the general details of the agreement.

“We’re excited to be moving forward with this contract,” he said.

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