The Harrison Police Benevolent Association voted on Tuesday to add the chief of police to its union as a non-voting, non-dues-paying member. The move would tie the chief’s salary and benefits to any collective bargaining agreement and could dictate percentage increases and other items outlined by the terms of the union contract with the town.
“As acting chief, I can’t spend all day sitting behind a desk,” Anthony Marraccini, the town’s police chief said. “It’s time I take an active role, one which cannot be influenced by politics.”
The move is not unprecedented in police departments in New York, but management and labor are often kept separate to avoid influence over the rank-and-file from management, a move which the non-voting status seeks to address. Management positions are often part of labor negotiations on the opposite end of the table, but this move would tie the fate of the chief with other union members in a time where Harrison has failed time and again to receive significant concessions from its labor force – even as the town faced an ongoing budgeting crisis.
This story originally appeared in the June 22, 2012 edition of The Harrison Review.
The current labor contracts are set to expire at year’s end and it remains to be seen if the inclusion of the chief will strengthen the PBA’s position at the negotiating table, where Harrison representatives have hit a stalemate with the union in attempting to get a more favorable healthcare contribution rate.
But before the move by the union to add the chief to its ranks becomes official, the Harrison Town Council, in its capacity as the Board of Police Commissioners, must vote to approve the change.
It was unclear if elected officials would support the move and memorialize the change. In fact, officials reached for comment on Wednesday just before press time said they weren’t aware of the PBA meeting in advance and had just learned of the change on Wednesday morning.
“This is the first time I’m hearing about it,” said Councilman Joseph Cannella when contacted by The Harrison Report on Wednesday.
Mayor Ron Belmont, a Republican, said the council would not bring up discussions of the union vote at the Town Council’s June 21 meeting, which was to take place after press time.
“I doubt we will memorialize this tomorrow,” Belmont said. “I don’t intend to bring it up, and even if we discuss, it that might be a matter for executive session.”
Chief Marraccini, for his part, said he didn’t view the move as controversial and was instead a positive step in a department reinvigorated after several years of bad publicity.
“The negativity has long gone and I will no longer tolerate the negative hype and propaganda,” Marraccini said. “This is a good thing. It shows we’re on the right track to rebuilding the quality of law enforcement in Harrison.”
Though recent chiefs have operated without a contract, there was a time in Harrison history where the position was more closely linked to labor agreements. Fifteen years ago, there was a tangible shift to separate management deals from those of the labor union members.
Former Chief of Police Albert Klein, who had served while the department was moving away from contracted pay for management, said he found the matter an ‘either/or’ situation.
“I don’t find anything wrong with it,” Klein said. “I know some places did it and some didn’t do it, at least back in my day.”