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Four-year Lexington police contract that will cost an additional $21.3 million moves forward

·3 min read

A four-year collective bargaining agreement with Lexington’s police union that ups pay and includes changes to police disciplinary procedures is moving closer to being finalized.

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council voted unanimously Tuesday to put the four-year contract that will cost the city an additional $21.3 million on its meeting agenda for first reading Thursday. A final voted is expected Nov. 4.

The city and the Fraternal Order of Police Bluegrass Lodge 4 have been negotiating the contract for more than two years. The contract covers nearly 600 positions.

The union voted to approve the proposed contract on Oct. 15. The city announced the tentative agreement last week.

The contract includes substantial raises for police officers, including step increases — which are pay increases based on rank and years of service — and annual cost-of-living increases. Starting salary will go from $41,057 to $47,000. Cost-of-living increases will be 3 percent in the first year and 2 percent in the next two years. In addition, police will receive $5,000 in one-time pay from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act money.

Police and city officials have repeatedly said raising salaries will help attract and retain officers. Police departments across the country, including Lexington, have struggled to keep officers.

The proposed contract also includes adding two civilians to an internal police disciplinary review board. The current internal review board has no civilians. It consists of one member of the FOP and six members of the command staff. Civilians would still be outnumbered on the revised internal disciplinary board, which would include five members of police command staff, two members of the FOP and two civilians.

Those who have pushed for more accountability of police in recent years have asked for more civilian oversight. It was also a recommendation of Mayor Linda Gorton’s Commission on Racial Justice and Equality, which released more than 54 proposals to address racial inequality in policing, the courts, education and economic development in October 2020.

The current contract also prohibits the administration from considering prior disciplinary actions after five years. The proposed contract allows police to consider all prior disciplinary actions.

Other key changes include allowing police officers to take home their cruisers if they live within 45 miles of Lexington. The current contract limit is a 35-mile radius. Officers reimburse the city 25 cents a mile. That change, too, may help the department attract more candidates from outside Fayette County, city officials have said.

During Tuesday’s council work session, Councilman David Kloiber questioned if it was in the city’s best interest to approve the contract while it was in a legal fight with the FOP over the banning of no-knock warrants.

The council voted this summer to ban the practice that allows officers to enter someone’s home without knocking or announcing. No-knock warrants have come under greater scrutiny after Louisville police killed Breonna Taylor during the serving of a no-knock warrant in 2020. The FOP subsequently sued the city, alleging the banning of no-knock warrants had to be negotiated as part of its collective bargaining agreement. In court documents, the city disagreed.

That lawsuit is ongoing.

David Barberie, a lawyer for the city, said it was the law department’s position the city council should approve the contract.

“Our position is that it is not part of bargaining,” Barberie said of the ban on no-knock warrants.

No council member spoke against the proposed contract during Tuesday’s council work session.

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