BY CAROLINE SELLE — At the November 17 Hyattsville city council meeting, council member Patrick Paschall (Ward 3) began the city’s discussion of creating a collective bargaining unit — a union — for the sworn officers of the Hyattsville City Police Department (HCPD).
“I believe the only way the police department can better serve public safety in our community,” he said, “is to give them the tools they need to succeed. But unfortunately I feel that our current police department is missing an important tool … which is collective bargaining rights.”
Collective bargaining, said Paschall, would allow the police department to ensure they have competitive rates of pay, benefits, and working conditions.
The council engaged in a lengthy discussion on the issue.
“I’m a big supporter of the theory,” said council member Shani Warner (Ward 2). However, she said she had logistical concerns. “That being said, I do recognize that it would be important to have the voices of the people who these decisions impact as part of the conversation.”
“I’ve seen the police department go through literal hell,” said council Vice President Paula Perry (Ward 4). “At one point they almost walked out on us because they were living at the poverty level … and they were promised raises that they never got.”
“I’m not saying that collective bargaining is the way to go,” she said, “but I do think it is something to look into … Our officers protect us. We need to protect them.”
Council President, Candace Hollingsworth (Ward 1) and council member Bart Lawrence (Ward 1) said they were concerned about approving collective bargaining for the police but not the rest of city employees.
“We can’t accurately predict the cost of collective bargaining,” said Lawrence, who asked if the proposal could “jeopardize the fiscal solvency of the city,” and potentially undermine the mayor and council’s ability to represent the best interests of the public.
Tim Hunt, council member from Ward 3, suggested the possibility of putting the question to a voter referendum.
Ultimately, the council agreed to continue the discussion in 2015.