Police Contract Stalled

Many Officers Feel Underappreciated

As Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin L. Powell talked with students in front of Au Bon Pain on Commencement Day, a Harvard patrol officer quietly took a Glock semiautomatic pistol from a crazed man standing just a few feet away.

But the Commencement incident was ignored in extensive media coverage of Powell's visit last June. And the arrest was never publicized or honored.

What's worse, Harvard police officers say, is that the heroic officer of Commencement Day, like all of the University's uniformed patrol officers, has been serving and protecting the campus for the past 15 months without a contract.

The police believe their inability to receive what they believe is a fair contract is indicative of a University and a community that does not adequately appreciate their quiet efforts to save lives.

While almost all of Harvard's unions--including the large and vocal Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers--successfully negotiated contracts with the University during the 18 months, the police officers' union and Harvard remain at an impasse.

And the officers, for one, are growing impatient.

"They keep saying we can slice the pie anyway we want, but they can't make it any bigger," said Robert Kotowski, a Harvard police officer and the president of the police union. "Well, I suggest it's time to go back to the bakery."

After sitting at the bargaining table since last fall, Kotowski and other officers say they are tired of talking behind closed doors. They say that they're tired of trying to negotiate with officials who have their hands tied by Harvard.

The officers are now taking their case to the Harvard community at large. In the last three weeks, officers have distributed a letter to College students and their parents that "requests your support in our ongo- ing struggle for a fair contract." And theyhave dotted the campus with blue Harvard policeballoons.

Getting the word out is half the battle,officers say, because the department oftencautions patrol officers against speaking to thepress. Because of this warning, officers say,members of the Harvard community often do not knowabout the dangerous, difficult work the officersdo.

Kotowski, in his letter and in multipleinterviews, has said that Harvard is offeringofficers a raise of three percent for fiscal year1992 and 2.6 percent for fiscal year 1993. This isthe University's "final offer," he said.

Officers and the union's letter say sergeantsand lieutenants within the police departmenttypically receive an annual raise of five to sixpercent.

"Our officers receive less benefits, less timeoff, and saddest of all, less protection againstinjury than other Harvard University employees,"the union letter says.

Associate Director of Labor Relations CarolynR. Young '76 declined to comment on Harvard'soffer to the police. She did say other unions,some of whom finished their bargaining only a fewmonths ago, received "an average [raise] ofsomewhere between three percent or less."

Young, one of four Harvard representativesnegotiating with the officers' union, saidyesterday that she could not comment on thespecific discussions conducted in thenegotiations.

"The discussions are confidential and I cannotcomment substantially," Young said. "But we havenot reached agreement."

Young, who is generally regarded as one ofHarvard's most relentless negotiators, said shehas not discussed the officers' efforts to makethe details of their negotiations public. But, sheadded, "It seems to me that agreements are usuallyreached at the table and not somewhere else."

Young said she "can't even predict" when thenegotiations might end. It could be tomorrow or ayear from now, she said.

For his part, Kotowski calls Young a "puppet"of a University administration obsessed withcost-cutting. He said that Young has repeatedlytold him "her hands are tied" and that she doesnot control the purse strings.

"We found out that we were negotiating withourselves," Kotowski said.

Since June, Kotowski said, Young has told himthat further delays in signing a new contractmight lead to a loss of back pay through thenullification of any retroactive raises. Patrolofficers did not receive a raise for last yearbecause they were working without a contract, hesaid.

But Young said she does not understand whynegotiations with the police are taking so long,especially since talks with other unions proceededrelatively smoothly.

"We've used the same approach in developingoffers to police as we have done with other groupsand I can't tell you why it's taking longer,"Young said.

Officers went out of their way to stress thatthe impasse will not impact the quality of policeservices.

"The work of the Harvard police officersfrequently goes unnoticed," says the union'sletter