The iconic bass line from Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” played from a cellphone as representatives from the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #141 signed a new labor contract benefiting the UMB Police Department on June 3.
It truly was a celebration at the Pine Street Police Station as pen was put to paper during the official signing of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the labor union representing UMB police officers and the University.
The three-year agreement means UMB officers will soon be bringing home a paycheck in line with officers in other jurisdictions thanks to a contract that was agreed upon in a record-breaking three months.
In addition to increasing base salaries, the deal offers UMBPD officers predictable pay with guaranteed step increases in lieu of merit and cost-of-living increases.
Juliet Dickerson, MS, director of staffing and career services, UMB Human Resources Information Services and HR Service Center, credits a commitment to UMB’s core values to the success of the negotiations. “Both sides came to the table with a collaborative approach,” she said. “Both sides came to the table with mutual dignity and respect. Both sides came to the table fully professional and ready to work, and work we did.”
Sunday Jones, MBA, SPHR, director of employee and labor Relations, agreed. “Many times with unions and employers, it can be a contentious relationship. Here we have developed a relationship that’s collaborative. We may not always agree, but we can talk respectfully with one another. This is the first time we’ve done this to celebrate because it went so well,” Jones said with a wave toward a refreshment table and a room filled with smiling UMB officials and police officers.
Contract negotiations, which began in January 2022 and resulted in a contract approved by the University System of Maryland Board of Regents in April, came at a time when the agency was losing officers to local municipalities due to a marked pay discrepancy.
The starting salary for an entry-level uniformed police officer at UMB is $45,055; by comparison, a Baltimore City officer brings home $55,117 as a recruit. The new pay scale, which kicks in July 1, increases UMBPD entry-level salary by $10,000 with annual step increases.
Dawn Rhodes, DBA, MBA, senior vice president and chief business and finance officer, praised the police for their commitment to keeping students, faculty, staff, and the local community safe. “We’re just indebted to you all,” Rhodes told the group of officers gathered for the signing. “And we needed to make sure that you had salaries and benefits that were going to make you want to stay.”
Reflecting on a previous contract negotiation that lasted more than three years, UMB Police Chief Thomas Leone, MSL, admitted he was nervous in January when talks began but was pleasantly surprised. “We respected each other. We treated folks with dignity and respect. And we got the same thing back.”
The agreement is a pleasing result for UMBPD, according to Leone, who added, “We’re finally recruiting and have applicants coming through.”
The chief also took the opportunity to thank officers and remind them how valuable they are to UMB and to the nation at large. “We have young, brilliant minds coming here to our campus that are going to be future leaders, and they can’t reach their full potential unless they feel safe,” he said. “Thank you for making that possible.”
Cpl. William Epperson, president of Lodge #141, and Cpl. Tia Taylor, treasurer, represented their colleagues at the negotiating table. Epperson said he’s been fielding calls from FOP presidents across the state congratulating him on the successful contract.
“Once you do something as monumental as this in such a short period of time, that just shows the collaborative effort between the University and FOP,” Epperson said. “We think we have a bright future here, and we’re looking forward to an ongoing successful relationship.”