Newsletter: Mar 27, 2022

As Delray Beach grows, Police Force Shrinks

The Delray Beach Police Department is "currently down 13 officers," according to a representative of the Palm Beach Police Benevolent Association. Due to vacancies, the Department had to reassign its narcotics squad, several detectives, and officers from the community oriented policing unit and traffic unit to road patrol for six months last year. By the end of this year, the number of officer vacancies could be up to 23 with further departures expected and retirements.

And this as Delray, whose leadership claims public safety as its top priority, becomes ever more crowded with vacationers and new residents.

The question is why?

The answer: a better pay and pension benefits package offered by Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, and the Palm Beach County Sherriff’s Office -- and stalled labor contract negotiations, which have had a deadening effect on morale.

The Police Officers' labor contract expired October 1, 2021, nearly six months ago, and there's still no resolution in sight.

Both Delray Beach Police and Firefighters haven’t been offered competitive benefits compared to surrounding agencies for the past eight years.  Firefighters negotiated a new contract in 2021, one that would bring its pay and benefit rank up to third or fourth in the County from last place.  When Police Officers asked for a similar package, Delray’s Human Resource Director, Duane D’Andrea, told negotiators, “Why don’t you guys become Firefighters?”

Dedicated, veteran Officers are angered by City officials saying they can improve their financial situation elsewhere, an attitude that encourages officers, especially younger officers, to make the jump to other agencies, and the Department is losing hard to recruit minority officers as well.  When confronted with that fact, by negotiators, D’Andrea, responded, “We can’t help it if people want to better themselves by going to other agencies.”

Negotiations are nearing an impasse, even though the expiration date was known far in advance, allowing City negotiators to conduct their financial projections, run their models, and develop a negotiation strategy before the expiration date.  Actuarial assumptions show that funding a pension benefits package similar to those at surrounding agencies and the Sheriff's Office would cost the city $496,000 per year, amortized over a 20-year period.

“When you factor in that it costs the department $200,000 per recruit from the Police Academy to replace officers leaving—we have lost 13 officers, with at least eight more being processed out -- well, you do the math,” said a representative of the Palm Beach Police Benevolent Association. “The Department has become a revolving door over the past eight years, and we’ll stay that way if this disparity isn’t addressed.” Two of the officers who recently departed were Rookies of the Year.

The city has now deemed the actuarial tables, paid for by the Police union in 2021 and that serve as the basis for pension cost projections, as out of date and it has requested new ones, which cost thousands of dollars to develop.  The Police union is refusing to shoulder that additional cost since negotiations have dragged on and the City has slow walked the process.

“We’ve been negotiating in good faith,” said a representative of the Palm Beach Police Benevolent Association. "But the city has taken sometimes a month to respond to an offer.”  The delay means that wage increases are frozen, which has caused a further decline in morale and resulted in officers to seek employment at other agencies.

If an impasse is declared, a special arbitrator will have to be called in, costing the City's taxpayers more money and extending the delay even further.   It is likely that additional officers who have been straddling the fence will decide to leave.

This at a time when City Commissioners found it necessary to cover some of its budget shortfall for the current fiscal year by funding the Police Department at only 75% -- and use $4.6 million of the $5.4 million it received in Federal CARES Act funds elsewhere. The CARES Act funds were to be used to keep the economy afloat during the pandemic and for public safety programs.


Contact your city officials.

Best Regards,

The Friends Of Delray Board

Judy Mollica - President

Steve English - Treasurer

Gregg Weiss - Secretary

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