Contract awards RI State Police $3,000 bounties for use of body cameras

PROVIDENCE – State troopers are latest batch of Rhode Island public employees in line to receive $3,000 bonusesbut theirs are described in a new contract as an “allowance” for wearing body cameras, according to a copy obtained by The Providence Journal.

While the McKee administration awarded two consecutive “retention bonuses” of $1,500 each to state union employees as a contract sweetener – and judges for life and others seized them for themselves — the soldiers’ new contract promises the full $3,000 in “the second full pay period following ratification.”

The union ratified the agreement on Friday.

And bonuses aren’t the only election-year win for state troopers, who are also in line for 2.5% increases — including retroactive increases — for each year of the contract, covering years that begin on November 1, 2020; November 1, 2021 and November 1, 2022.

According to a signed copy of the contract obtained by The Journal, the contract also provides for time-and-a-half pay for soldiers who work when there is a declared public emergency “or state offices are closed.”

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From the wording, it is not immediately clear if – and how – this provision affects the pay of soldiers during Rhode Island’s two-year COVID-19 public health emergency, which the governor extended from March 3 to April 1 for “new variants of COVID-19.”

Here’s what the time-and-a-half provision actually says:

“In the event that the Governor or designate determines that an emergency exists and, accordingly, makes a public statement [that] an emergency exists or state offices are closed, members who are required to report for work or continue to work will be compensated at the time and 1/2 rate for each hour worked.”

But Alana O’Hare, spokeswoman for Gov. Dan McKee, explained the intent: “It relates to severe weather events, such as hurricanes and blizzards, that cause state government offices to close.”

The rationale: body cameras add to the workload and responsibilities of soldiers

Asked about the reason for providing soldiers with $3,000 bonuses for implementing the body camera program, O’Hare said:

“The implementation of a body-worn camera (BWC) program represents a change in working conditions and adds additional duties and responsibilities to today’s soldiers and police officers.

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She said state police “recently conducted a [body-worn camera] pilot program where … it has become apparent that the implementation of a program will add to the duties and responsibilities of Troopers.

“The the initiation allowance is consistent with that of other law enforcement agencies which recognize the additional responsibility and duties associated with the [body camera] program,” she says. (It’s not yet clear if any police departments in Rhode Island — including body-camera pioneers Newport and Providence — have given bonuses to their employees.)

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The $3,000 bonuses for state workers were initially described — in a new contract, the McKee administration awarded the state employees’ largest union, Council 94, ASCME — as incentives for state union workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

They were recast by the McKee administration as “retention bonuses” in the face of heavy criticism.

The link to body-worn cameras is a new wrinkle, and it follows the passage in June 2021 of a state law that McKee signed into law last summer.

A state government press release said the new law would provide money to “equip approximately 1,700 of Rhode Island’s uniformed patrol officers – across all police departments and the Rhode State Police Island – with body-worn cameras over the next 12-18 months.”

Said the superintendent of the state police. James Manni at that time:

“Today, body-worn cameras are essential equipment for all members of law enforcement. They are a key tool for creating transparency, maintaining public trust, improving security and increasing the accountability of law enforcement agencies. officers and members of the public.”

“Don’t tell me what happened, show me,” Attorney General Peter Neronha echoed at a news conference announcing the state’s new $3 million commitment to body cameras as a critical “first step” in holding the police more accountable for their actions. .

By the time McKee signed the new law in July 2021, Newport and Providence already required the use of body cameras, although other departments have pilot programs.

As Rep. Deborah Ruggiero explained to the Newport Daily News, the new law did not mandate the use of body cameras for all police departments. On the contrary, “it allows them” by making public funds available. The caveat: To access the funds, departments will have to adopt rules and regulations around the use of body cameras, to be ironed out.

Questions Raised by the New State Police Contract

What is the overall cost of retroactive wage provisions and bonuses?

Here’s what’s known so far about the bounties spreading from one union – and non-union – corner of the state government to another, since the McKee administration first offered them to Council 94:

The decision by state judges, legislative leaders, college administrators and state treasurer general Seth Magaziner to extend bonuses to their own non-union employees — and in the judges’ case, themselves – increased the projected cost of bonuses from $18 million to $19.7 million.

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In total, “retention bonuses” went to thousands of union employees and 579 non-union employees on the state payroll, who in many cases are “at will” employees of appointed and elected officials of the state who hired them.

McKee chose not to give the bonuses to non-union employees in the executive branch.

Until March 8, when Rhode Island Troopers Association top executives and state personnel administrator Kyle Adamonis signed a new contract, the Troopers were among the few groups of unionized workers without bonuses.

We do not yet know how the state correctional guards will get away with it.

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