'It's time to put the (police) union on notice,' Buffalo Councilmembers promise
The next union contract covering Buffalo Police officers is likely to be a contentious affair, with Common Council members promising to control what is eventually in it.
Policing has been a central focus of the protests that have swept the country and across Buffalo, including some violent incidents. Vocal protestors have called for defunding the police and creating a public safety system far different from the present.
Much of this is controlled by a contract between the City of Buffalo and the Police Benevolent Association. But after an agreement is bargained between the city and the union, that pact must be ratified by the Common Council to take effect.
During Tuesday's Common Council meeting, the University District's Rasheed Wyatt said this time, lawmakers will do more than just vote on what is presented.
"Improving this process, bringing it forward early on, I think, is very helpful to the public being apprised, as well as the Council, what has been agreed upon," Wyatt said, "because many times we get this at the last minute and we certainly can't go through the entire contract in a short period of time when they are looking for the approval almost immediately."
Masten District Councilmember Ulysees Wingo said it will be three-way bargaining.
"It's time to put the union on notice. I'm putting them on notice that if they give us a contract that does not include some of the things that we, the Common Council, have been asking for on behalf of our constituency regarding the Buffalo Police Department and their contract, then, yes, they will be heavily scrutinized," Wingo said. "This contract will be read, page by page, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence. Every dot. Every iota."
Wingo did not specify what he wants in the contract, but said there will not be an approval until what he wants is included.
That could be risky. Under the state's Taylor Law, if there is a dispute about a new agreement, the old agreement stays in effect.
"During that interim, what we sometimes have is a Memorandum of Understanding," said Assistant Corporation Counsel Carin Gordon, "certain terms that we can, at least, agree on in order to keep the contract to keep the employees working until we reach that point where we can come and ratify a final contract."
The Buffalo School Board is still paying for a long-ago pact it refused to ratify. After many years of legal infighting over that refusal, the district lost and had to borrow millions of dollars from Albany to pay the Buffalo Teachers Federation and slowly pay back Albany for that loan.