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NATO Summit prompts police grievance by Chicago cops over OT pay

Protesters pause Chicago Police statiHalsted 31st Streets during march Tuesday night May 15 2012. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times

Protesters pause at a Chicago Police station at Halsted and 31st Streets during a march Tuesday night, May 15, 2012. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 17, 2012 7:12PM

Chicago police officers who work overtime during the NATO Summit have been told they will be paid in cash — and denied the option of taking compensatory time off — triggering a class-action grievance by the police union.

The preemptive grievance — potentially affecting 3,100 police officers assigned to NATO duty if they all choose comp time over cash — was posted on the official website of the Fraternal Order of Police.

It noted that the Chicago Police Department has printed new overtime slips “with the box marked ‘money’ already checked.” Officers who would rather have time than money were advised to “cross out the ‘money’ line and check the ‘time’ box” while keeping “anecdotal records of the denial” of comp time requests.

FOP president Mike Shields said this is the second union grievance stemming from the NATO Summit. The first, still pending, contests the city’s decision to cancel furloughs during a two-week period including the summit.

“NATO is not an excuse for the city of Chicago to circumvent the contract,” Shields said Thursday. “It clearly states that officers working overtime are to be paid in either time or money. It’s their choice.

“This is a week when Chicago police officers are having their days off and vacations cancelled,” Shields said. “They’re being forced to work 12-hour shifts, yet, on the flip side, they’re being told they can’t be compensated in a manner that is guaranteed by our contract. It’s the city’s way, or no way. NATO is not to trump the contract collectively bargained. This is just another example of the city not honoring the contract.”

In the website posting, Shields accuses Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration of attempting to “defer the overtime costs of this summit to the federal government...Apparently, the city does not have the ability to defer the cost of time to the feds.”

Felicia Davis, the mayor’s first deputy chief of staff, specializing in public safety, would not confirm the union’s claim that officers who work overtime during the summit would be paid in cash only.

But Davis did say, “Overtime is an eligible expense for the [summit] and, of course, those costs would be covered” by the federal government.

Davis said the union “has a right to file a grievance. We’ll have to see how it plays out.”

A City Hall source, who asked to remain anonymous, said the overtime grievance was triggered by a “paperwork error.”

“Forms did not give officers a chance to choose between pay and comp time. Pay was already checked. It should have not have happened,” the source said.

“This is not set in stone. There’s plenty of time to work out this issue. If it comes to a point where they have to accept cash they don’t want, they’ll be able to trade this money in for comp time.”

Chicago Police Department spokesperson Melissa Stratton had no comment.

Law Department spokesman Roderick Drew said the Emanuel administration “intends to comply” with the collective bargaining agreement.

The potential overtime tied to the NATO Summit could be staggering, with all of the extra hours police officers are expected to spend dealing with the thousands of protesters expected in Chicago.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy has cancelled days off during the summit and ordered all officers to work 12-hour shifts, starting at midnight Thursday and continuing through Monday.

Normally, the department divides the work day into three shifts or “tours” of eight hours each.

Earlier this week, McCarthy said that the extended tours and his decision to cancel days off would allow the department to devote extraordinary police resources to the summit and still provide a 15 percent increase in neighborhood police protection.

“It’s gonna cost us a little bit of money, but we anticipate we’re gonna be able to maintain our enforcement efforts in the neighborhoods while maintaining safety downtown,” the superintendent said then. “That frees up about one-third of the department to deal with the [summit]. This actually results in a 15 percent increase in the number of officers assigned in the neighborhoods…The same officers who were doing an eight-hour tour are now going to do a 12-hour tour in the same districts they’re working in today. You’ll have the same cops on the same beats in the same neighborhoods. And we’ll have an increase of about 15 percent out in the neighborhoods.”

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