By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor
The City of Tawas City Police Department is in its infancy as a newer agency, but now their Full-Time Officers have experienced representation.
The two-person department, which is in the process of hiring a third full-time officer, joined the Police Officers Labor Council (POLC) in December 2022.
“They used to be in a police authority with the City of East Tawas, but the municipalities split up a few years back and formed their own police departments,” said Chris Watts, their new POLC Labor Representative. “East Tawas Police Department is not unionized currently, but the City of Tawas City Police Officers have recently joined with us.”
The POLC had represented the Tawas Police Authority before the departments officially separated in March 2021.
“The City of Tawas City created its own police department the same time as the split and, two years later, reached out and wanted to be Union Employees,” Watts said.
Since the City of Tawas City Police Department was newly formed and Employees were on probation, it took a bit longer to become unionized. “It was always their intent to unionize but they needed to get some seniority,” Watts said. “They wanted to be Union because they were at-will Employees.”
When hiring became a problem, Tawas City Full-Time Officers realized the time to unionize was now.
“There was no contract outside of just using the City's policy for all Employees,” said Sgt. Branden Kirby, Chief Steward of the Tawas City Full-Time Police Officers. “When trying to hire and fill open slots here, it became difficult because we could not answer candidate questions. There was no direct answer to provide as far as pay and other benefits. There was no pay schedule, or any other police specific policies, so we started to look around for an outside source to help create a contract that we could use.”
The group chose the POLC based on their noteworthy reputation and the services they offer.
“POLC represents agencies that are local to Tawas City, so I spoke to a few other agencies for their thoughts,” Kirby said. “All the other agencies that I spoke to had nothing but good things to say about POLC. I contacted Chris Watts and we began creating the contract.”
As POLC members, Tawas City Full-Time Police Officers also have access to the PORAC Legal Defense Fund, which provides the assurance of having a legal team readily available if they ever face civil or criminal charges related to performing their jobs.
“The City of Tawas City Police wanted to be represented by the POLC for PORAC insurance and bargaining powers,” Watts said.
Watts helped the group bargain their first contract, a 2-1/2 year agreement with a total of 18 percent wage increases. They established a five-step pay scale with annual 4 percent step increases, plus 2 percent wage increases during the contract term, July 1, 2023 to Dec. 31, 2025.
Tawas City Police also established a Longevity pay scale with annual payouts ranging from $500 to $2,000. They added four additional paid Holidays, 40 hours of Compensatory Time and up to 36 hours of Personal Time annually. Employees did not previously have Compensatory Time, Personal Time or Longevity pay.
Healthcare coverage was maintained with 100 percent of the premiums paid by the Employer for medical, dental and vision insurance.
“During the process of building a new contract, as the Tawas City Police Department was without one prior, Chris always maintained contact with Tawas City members,” Sgt. Kirby said. “I enjoy the fact that the POLC is member/committee run and that most of the Executive Committee members are still working within law enforcement.”
“We’re thankful they gave us another opportunity to represent their police officers and we look forward to a continued relationship with them in the years to come,” Watts said.