March 27, 2007

Contract Increases C.U. Police Salaries

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Since 1991, Cornell’s population has grown by at least ten percent and the size of the campus has increased by three million square feet, according to Stephen Golding, executive vice president for finance and administration, who oversees the Cornell Police Department. And yet, despite increasing demands for public safety, the CUPD has not expanded.

Changes in the Cornell Police Union’s contract, which took effect on December 1, will allow the CUPD to provide more effective coverage on campus by both attracting new officers and helping to retain current officers.

“The contract will allow us not only to retain the good officers that we have, and we recruit some of the best police officers in the state, but it will also allow us to recruit new ones. We will probably be adding to our CUPD in order to recognize the increased service demands that are placed on them,” Golding said.

The contract establishes CUPD officers at a market competitive rate and provides the officers with a retirement plan in which they can invest more money, thereby generating more funds over a shorter period of time.

Under the new contract, once officers have undergone a 520-hour training period and a probationary period, they will be paid $60,000 annually. In addition, the contract developed a five-year plan for fully-functioning officers.

The new contract will also increase the diversity of the squad, according to Captain Kathy Zoner, assistant director of public safety, because wage increases make the job more attractive and the CUPD operates in a competitive industry.

Both the University and the CUPD said negotiations went smoothly.

“I thought that they did a very good job of dealing with issues that were before them in a manner that was respectful of the important role that the police play in our community,” said Mary Opperman, vice president of human resources.

While the new contract addresses salary issues, the CUPD hopes that the status of the officers will also change in the near future. This change, however, is not a University contract issue and can only result from negotiations with the Department of Criminal Justice Services.

Currently, officers do not have access to the DCJS record management, including the criminal history and missing persons databases, and are forced to rely on municipal agents for that information.

“Access to those records would expedite information exchange, prevent crimes and locate people more quickly,” Zoner said. “Right now two law enforcement units are needed to accomplish what we can with access to the records.”

The CUPD is petitioning for qualified agency status, and has been involved in talks with the DCJS for years, according to Zoner.

“It’s a very timely process that takes years. We have every hope and every confidence that we can come to a reasonable conclusion with the DCJS,” she said.

The CUPD will be working with new Criminal Justice Director Denise O’Donnell, who was appointed by Governor Elliot Spitzer in January.