The conversation became heated at a contract negotiation meeting between University Police and the USF administration Monday, when several UP officers walked out of the talks in apparent dissatisfaction.
After Police Benevolent Association (PBA) Representative Corporal Stephanie Crookston told USF’s lead negotiator Sandy Lovins, “Your words are not going to get me home to my family,” two officers left the room.
“The officers got up and left in frustration,” said Crookston. “They’ve done that before. They’re not allowed to speak at these sessions, so that’s their way of communicating their frustration.”
Ken Gullette, USF’s Media Relations director, said he was told that the meeting was more tense than usual.
“Both sides were passionate but it’s nothing out of the ordinary,” he said.
The talks between the two sides grew more tense after the USF administrators returned from discussing the wage proposal presented by UP, he said.
The negotiation meeting – held to discuss UP officers’ salary – attracted more guests than usual, as Student Government Chief of Staff Justin Hall, student body President Garin Flowers and Vice President Faran Abbasi attended the meeting.
The PBA’s wage proposal would increase two-year-and-under officers’ salaries to $39,500 and bring the two- to five-year officers’ salaries up to $41,000.
The new salary proposal also provided for $2,500 bonuses to officers on the force under five years and increased the bonus to $5,000 for officers on UP’s force for more than five years. The PBA also asked for a base rate salary increase of 1.5 percent for all officers in their second and third year of service.
Crookston said she hoped the proposed changes can address ‘compression’, a term referring to the difference in salary for officers on the force in relation to their time served.
Hall was disheartened by the meeting and didn’t think it addressed staffing and salary problems in UP.
“It was very upsetting to me the way the administration is handling things,” he said. “It reflects that they don’t really care about student safety. If they did care about student safety, they wouldn’t be using the stall method.”
While the administration team was in another room discussing the proposal, SG representatives asked questions of UP officers.
Abbasi wanted to know about the relationship between UP and other local law agencies.
Sergeant Mike Klingebiel explained “the support that we have from other agencies is tremendous,” but was wary of describing them as the main law enforcement agency for the USF campus.
“They’ve got their own jurisdictions to handle,” he said.
Another sergeant referred to a bomb threat at Cooper Hall last summer, and said the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office didn’t have anyone to send while the Tampa Police Department sent only two officers.
SG also asked the officers their opinion about the University’s proposal to hire a security consultant and plans to hire private security agency.
“Think about the types of crimes that are going to occur; they are going to be the ones that you need a cop there to do the arresting,” said Klingebiel. “What are these guys going to do? They’re going to call the patrolling UP officers. You’re adding more eyes and ears, but all they’re going to do is call UP.”
There is talk that UP may picket, but plans would be shaped by officer schedules, Crookston said.
“That’s not off the table. That’s still a possibility; we’re looking into it. We don’t have a date because it really depends on USF,” she said.
It is almost certain the picket will not take place during Homecoming, as the officers almost unanimously said that they would all be working that day, Crookston said.
Christine Gibson can be reached at (813) 974-6299 or firstname.lastname@example.org.