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Teed-off cops picket mayor's golf tourney

BRIDGEPORT - Police officers picketed the "Mayor's Cup" charity golf tournament Friday to call attention to their contract dispute with Mayor Bill Finch. About 75 officers, some from as far away as New London, demonstrated in a circle at the Park Avenue entrance to Fairchild Wheeler Golf Course as Finch arrived for the event. They later marched past the clubhouse as the tourney got under way.
Some held signs with slogans including, "Grinch: Leave Our Contract Alone" and "Finch is a Zero." Officers said Finch is unfairly demanding officers accept no raises for two years, work one week for free and cut overtime in half as a way to help close a looming gap in the new fiscal year's budget.
"We are just showing our disdain for the city administration," said Frank Cuccaro, president of Local 1159, which represents the city's patrol officers. Union members recently approved a motion of no confidence in Finch and Chief Bryan Norwood.
"The administration is failing to negotiate in good faith. They want us to work for free for a week and they walked away from the table," Cuccaro said.
"We keep the city safe and expect fair wages."
For his part, Finch took the protest in stride, arriving at the golf tournament via the Stratfield Road entrance in Fairfield, where none of the police pickets were stationed.
"It's part of the job," Finch said as he walked toward the clubhouse to check in for the charity event, which was sponsored by the Connecticut Post and the city.

The proceeds benefit the Newspaper in Education program, which uses newspapers to encourage children to read. The police union donated $400 to the cause.
Finch defended his contract demands, which he said includes cutting police overtime in half, from more than $8 million last year to about $4.5 million this year.
"The city is in a financial crisis and we have to make cuts. There are measures we have to take to keep the city financially sound," he said.
Meanwhile, police working the picket line were clearly unhappy with the mayor.
Officer Todd Sherbud marched with a sign proclaiming, "I should have voted for Caruso," referring to Finch's opponent, state Rep. Christopher Caruso, in the Democratic primary for mayor last fall.
Asked if he really voted for Finch, Sherbud said he did, but would not again, "if I knew what I know now."
James Howell, who represents the statewide police union, said Bridgeport is the only community offering no pay raises to its police officers.
"These guys put their lives on the line every day. They are just looking for a fair and decent wage. They are on the lowest-paid department," Howell said.
Cuccaro acknowledged negotiations between the union and the city are at an impasse and said the deadlocked talks will likely have to be resolved in arbitration, where officers are likely to win some type of a raise.
"We are looking for what we deserve. We want at least 3 percent," Cuccaro said.
Norwood arrived at the golf course with Finch. Both planned to play in the tournament, even though neither are avid golfers. Finch, in fact, said he had never played a round before.
The chief said the Police Department could reach Finch's goal of cutting overtime in half and still keep an adequate deployment of officers on the street. "The mayor said there are cuts that must be made. We will keep enough officers on the street to maintain public safety."
The union contends reducing overtime will make it impossible to maintain the current staffing level of 21 officers per shift.
"The mayor wants to lower it by 60 percent. That will kill public safety," Cuccaro said.
Police overtime has drawn attention lately, partly because the department exceeded its budgeted overtime by $1.3 million last year. Bridgeport pays the most overtime of the state's largest cities, and the issue has sparked controversy because high-ranking officers are paid a large share of the overtime.
Finch said the practice of high-ranking officers being paid a disproportionate share of overtime will stop. He said savings from ending that practice will help the department cut overall overtime and maintain a sufficient number of officers on the street.
 
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Good for them.

Work a week for free? And what if an officer were injured or killed in the line of duty during this volunteer week?

Can anyone else picture the city solicitor arguing the case before an arbitrator/judge "Well, he wasn't being paid and therefore technically was not on duty, so the city has no legal obligation to pay disabilty/death benefits"?

If the government really needs to save money, they need to address the multitude of problems with junkies, drunks, illegal aliens, and plain old layabouts who are draining this state/country dry.

After you address those problems, then come and talk to me about my negotiated salary and benefits.
 

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How about the mayor work free for a few weeks!

Quite simply it is a national security threat if I can't get a bed for myself in a hospital due to it being backed up with illegals or if I can't get the ambulance to respond to my house because Mrs. Welfare has a cold.
 
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