NAPLES, Fla. — Police officers in Naples are upset after they say city leaders went back on an agreement on a new labor contract. Now those officers want answers.
The local Fraternal Order of Police expected to have a new contract for its officers after this week’s city council meeting. And yet, after the council met today for the second time this week, the police still don’t have a deal — and they say it’s hurting the public.
We’re seeing crime rates go up,” said Sgt. Michael Herman with the Naples Police Department. “We are trying to stay on top of it the best we can. We’ve had to close specialty units and have personnel work double duty.”
Herman says the Naples Police is suffering a 20 percent staffing shortage because of a lack of competitive pay and benefits.
That problem was supposed to be solved — the police union says it had agreed in principal with city leaders on a new contract. However, at Monday’s meeting, the city council met in a closed-doors executive session and rescinded the deal.
“We received word back that they were not willing to approve that deal because it included a provision in there to address pension issues that we’ve been trying to get addressed for well over a decade,” Herman said.
The police union wants the age and years of service requirements lowered for when officers can retire.
“My father was killed in the line of duty when I was 7. Had my mom not received that pension don’t know where we’d be,” said Rosemary Zore, founder of the Fallen Officers Foundation based in Collier County. “She was a single mom, 23 years old with a 7-year-old daughter.”
Zore says pay and benefits also need to be improved.
“If we’re not paying them what they deserve, or what we should be giving them, then they’re not going to come here and work,” she said. “Then our streets won’t be safe, our businesses won’t be safe.”
At Wednesday’s meeting, the city council said it can’t comment on negotiations because they happened in executive session. But Mayor Teresa Heitmann said she is committed to big raises for the police.
“I’ll just tell you that we are working for historic, historic measures in these negotiations,” Heitmann said. “I assure the public we’re working hard to have historic measures taken with the salaries.”
The Naples police union says its pay is 15 to 20 percent less than the average for other police departments in the state. They said negotiations will continue on a contract, which expired in October.