Police are raking in millions through union contracts

"boat checks," buying back sick days from retiring police officers and "14k solid gold" retirement badges- your Friday long read from ProPublica

We go to ProPublica for this weeks long read by Andrew Ford of Asbury Park Press, and Agnes Chang, Jeff Kao and Agnel Philip. Read the whole article “How the Police Bank Millions Through Their Union Contracts.” We include key excerpts below to convince you it’s worth your time!

How the police bank millions through their union contracts

Despite attempts to rein in police union contracts in New Jersey, costly provisions remain common, an unprecedented analysis by the Asbury Park Press and ProPublica found. The news outlets identified contract clauses throughout the state that protect officer payouts that cost the public hundreds of millions of dollars.

In 2010, state lawmakers passed a law to stop huge retirement payouts for unused sick days, but taxpayers are still funding the largesse. North Bergen approved generous payments to four retiring officers in 2019, including a sergeant who got $75,330.32 for unused sick time. Some retirement payouts can be even higher. In 2017, a chief in Jersey City collected more than half a million dollars.


The Press and ProPublica also found that unions and towns have a loophole that gets around the limit the state Legislature put on the payouts. Unlike in the private sector, where many companies require employees to use or lose their sick and vacation time each year, some union deals allow officers to sell back their unused sick time annually, which could allow new hires to exceed the $15,000 limit the state put on such payouts at retirement. Four officers in Norwood appear to have already exceeded the state limit with annual payouts. Norwood Borough Attorney Kevin Corriston said he believed the town was in compliance, but that he was unfamiliar with the law and would investigate further.

Bottom line

“Examination of police budgets is critically important right now and something that communities are demanding all across the country,” said Jonathan Smith, who supervised work on police accountability in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice from 2010 to 2015. “These provisions may be targets for review as to whether this is really fair compensation.”

Read the whole investigation with details like $7,000 retirement badges here.

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