Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 26
 
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
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Interpretive Differences Over Stand-By Police Pay Aired at Council Hearing

Matthew Hersh

A difference in the rule interpretation surrounding "double-time" pay for officers called in while on stand-by duty has arrived at the dais for Princeton Borough Council to review, as Princeton's police union seeks a clarification on what has been described by Borough officials as a long-standing policy on stand-by compensation.

The review, in the form of a formal grievance determination, is in response to a March 15, 2007 arrangement where Borough Officer Sean Cahill agreed to fill a stand-by shift as another patrol squad officer, Officer William Perez, was working eight consecutive 12-hour evening shifts. According to a letter to members of Council, Officer Cahill agreed to work the shift, which he subsequently did after receiving clearance excusing him from an already scheduled training program.

Officer Cahill did not, however, receive the double-time pay, or 24-hour wage, for working the 12-hour shift. Instead, he received the one-and-a-half time wage for overtime pay.

"This basically is a scenario of interpretation of what's in the union agreement," said Borough administrator Robert Bruschi, specifically referring to a proviso in the current PBA Local #130 contract with Princeton Borough stating that "all patrol officers assigned to the 12-hour shift who are required to be on stand-by shall be granted 24 hours of compensatory time on an annual basis as reimbursement for stand-by."

The agreement goes on to read that "any stand-by patrol officer assigned to the 12-hour shift shall be compensated on a double-time basis when they are called in for duty while on stand-by."

According to documents released by Borough Hall, which outline a series of communiqués between ranking members of the Borough Police Department, Officer Cahill spoke with Police Chief Anthony Federico and with members of the Borough's Public Safety Committee, which resulted in an "unsuccessful attempt" to "secure an equitable solution to this difference of opinion in interpretation."

The Public Safety Committee that consists of four members of Borough Council subsequently denied Officer Cahill's grievance in a May 18 correspondence, saying double-time compensation does not apply to officers who have taken over a stand-by shift on their own, when another officer is called in for work.

More specifically, the Committee pointed to an April 2006 memo from Chief Federico saying that double-time compensation "does not carry over to officers who voluntarily take the place of a stand-by officer when and after the stand-by officer is called in for duty."

Chief Federico's memo emphasizes that double-time pay applies for officers who are called in for duty while on stand-by.

According to the Public Safety Committee findings, Borough Sgt. Kevin Creegan asked Officer Cahill to fill in for Officer Perez's evening shift on March 15 after communicating with Lt. Sharon Papp. Lt. Papp, according to the report, then advised Sgt. Creegan that Officer Cahill "would not be paid double time because he was not the 'stand-by' officer."

The Committee found that Officer Cahill was "not limited to his off duty activities and agreed to respond to a call back [to duty] on March 15, 2007."

PBA Local #130 is currently in the final year of a three-year agreement with the Borough.

Tuesday's hearing occurred after Town Topics went to press. See the July 4 issue for a full report.

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