Town, police settle dispute

Agreement over staffing levels involves undisclosed monetary settlement

— The Town of Bethlehem and one of its police unions have come to an agreement after several of the department’s detectives filed a grievance against the town.

In April of 2012, a grievance of improper practice was filed through the state’s Public Employment Relations Board because detectives felt they had to spend an excessive amount of time on call due to staff shortages. After positions were eliminated through attrition, there were only two detectives in the department’s adult unit with a third on sick leave. There are an additional two detectives in the department’s Family Service’s Unit.

“An officer’s life can be greatly affected if they’re constantly on call,” said Bethlehem Police Benevolent Association President Officer Mike Berben. “They can’t travel with their family or have a drink if they want. They needed to be compensated in some way.”

The town’s Director of Human Resources Mary Tremblay-Glassman said based on the successful contract the town and PBA agreed to in March of this year, town officials thought it was in everyone’s best interest to try to negotiate instead of going through PERB and paying negotiation fees.

“The PBA now has a very effective leadership that is willing to work with us,” she said.

Tremblay-Glassman said it took some time to get the grievance through the stages it needed to go through with PERB before it could come back to the town to be negotiated. Town officials and the union began meeting several months ago before coming to terms at an undisclosed monetary agreement.

“The town decided it was cheaper to settle than to litigate,” said Berben. “We agreed, because if we had litigated it would have cost us money as well.”

Berben said the amount is not much, but enough to compensate the detectives for their time. However, he said this settlement is a microcosm of a larger issue.

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