Police slam lack of contract progress as more cops leave town

Abington police have launched another broadside against the town’s selectmen, saying in a Facebook post that the lack of a better-paying contract continues to help push officers out the door.

Four additional officers have left since Abington Police Union MassCop Local 476 President Joseph Davern told selectmen in April that the department was “about to hemorrhage a lot of police officers, and it’s going to be imminent.”

One of the officers no longer with the department was fired, according to multiple sources. Three other officers are now with other law enforcement agencies. According to a source within the union, another three officers are going through the hiring process with other departments and six are on the civil service list to join other departments. 

“We are currently critically understaffed with more losses imminent,” the union wrote in its post. “We also stand to lose wisdom and experience of seasoned Officers and Sergeants; which would be even more detrimental to a department with an overall low amount of experience. The BOS and Town Manager were warned of this and it has come to fruition.”

Selectmen Chairman Kevin DiMarzio declined to comment on the union’s post, as did selectmen Alex Hagerty, Tim Chapin, Alex Bezanson, and Michael Kolodziej, citing ongoing contract negotiations. Town Manager Scott Lambiase, who is the town’s primary contract negotiator, also declined to comment. Davern also did not return a message seeking more information.

The Abington Police Department is budgeted for 31 police officers including the chief’s position. They have currently just 23 in uniform based on departures and officers serving on active duty. The roster includes two recent police academy graduates who are still paired up with more experienced officers. 

The union said in its post that current staffing levels are putting officers and the public in danger, detailing a shift where the two units on patrol were dispatched to separate domestic incidents. Police department standard practice is to send multiple units to domestic disturbance calls, it said

“For a period of over an hour all Abington Police were tied up on these calls and there were no other units available for service in the event of a separate emergency,” the union wrote. “This was not an isolated incident and there will be more if town leaders continue to fail to address the staffing issues. We cannot rely on outside police departments to come to our aid.”

Last week, vandals defaced the Memorial Bridge to Island Grove with an anti-police slogan along with other profanities. The union wrote that they were less offended by the graffiti and more offended by being “ignored by town leaders.”

The ongoing police vs. town strife is not a new issue nor is it a particular black and white issue. One analysis found that 55 full-time Abington officers and sergeants left the department between 2004 and 2019. Union leadership has been complaining about department leadership for at least a decade, saying Chief David Majenski’s leadership style could be heavy handed. A secondary issue raised by the union was that the town’s base pay scale was lower than nearby similar towns. 

However, both those issues have largely been addressed by town leaders over the past three years. Multiple selectmen, including Chapin and DiMarzio, made resolving police department issues a core part of their campaign platforms. 

Selectmen and Town Meeting in 2019 agreed to pay for an outside analysis of department operations. That study found the department compared well to other similar-sized departments but still offered 53 recommendations on ways to improve. Last August, the town reached a deal with Majenski allowing him to burn about eight months of accrued personal time before retiring this coming Aug. 31. Lambiase has chosen a new Police Chief, but is holding off on announcing it publicly until the new chief is able to notify his existing employer.  

The police union’s last contract with the town included pay hikes and a restructured step system that brought Abington’s base pay in line with other communities.  

The town and the police union have been actively negotiating a new contract, but neither have said publicly what the sticking points are. According to the union post: “The resolution to this problem is clear; which is an increase to this department’s budget. This will allow us to compete with surrounding towns and be able to recruit and retain officers.”

Sources within the department said while base pay is average compared to other local departments, other towns are more generous when it comes to paycheck sweeteners. Officers can receive additional money for completing degree programs, working night shifts, or taking on special assignments such as school resource officer. Abington pays substantially less for the enhancements, the sources said, meaning officers can increase their pay by several thousand dollars by switching departments.

Multiple town hall sources said that the police union agreed to the reduced education benefit during prior contract negotiations. 

The list of officers who have left the town in recent years also includes multiple union presidents.

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