Westport RTM approves one-year extension of police contract

Westport Police Headquarters on Jesup Road.

Westport Police Headquarters on Jesup Road.

Cameron Martin / Cameron Martin

WESTPORT — The Representative Town Meeting voted 26-2, with two abstentions, to approve a one-year extension to the current police contract with a pay hike.

The extension comes despite the coronavirus pandemic inhibiting collective bargaining meetings. The newly approved memorandum of understanding between the town and Westport Police Local 2080 will be effective through June 30, 2021.

But the 2.5 percent increase in police salaries was a point of debate for some RTM members.

“We have all those merit increases that are step increases that the officers are getting,” RTM member Kris Hamlin said at the meeting on Tuesday. “But this was simply supposed to be something to, like the cost-of-living adjustment, track inflation — and it doesn’t.”

Hamlin said she favored a 2 percent increase to be fiscally disciplined. She said while she did not support the defund the police movement, she was sensitive to the number of police brutality protests seen across the country in the past month.

“I really thought it was sort of insensitive to us as a body not to be responsible financially as well as be responsive to that,” she said,.

Seth Braunstein, an RTM member, said he didn’t feel it was appropriate to negotiate the agreement at the meeting.

“I would also say the defunding efforts or things happening at a national basis — to me there are individual communities facing questions about police brutality or police malfeasance,” he said. “I want to be very clear I think our police has done an exceptional job, and the recent protests we’ve seen in our community have gone very well because of our police force.”

Braunstein said he would vote for the agreement, but with reservations.

“The increase is potentially a troublesome increase in my mind because of the magnitude relative to inflation,” he said.

But several RTM members supported the increase, noting the work first responders were doing throughout the pandemic.

“One of the things I remark to family and friends is how well we have handled the pandemic crisis here in the town of Westport,” RTM member Lou Mall said. “It has to do with leadership and it has to do with first responders.”

Mall said the town has asked first responders to put their life on the line on their behalf throughout the crisis.

“I would ask you tonight to extend this contract for one year and give the police a 2.5 percent increase as what they are earning for their service to the town,” he said.