At D.C.’s annual police awards ceremony Thursday, Mayor Vincent C. Gray had the best applause line of the night.
Rank-and-file officers cheered for their colleagues who had racked up impressive numbers of arrests and seizures of contraband. And Gray offered the promise of cold, hard cash for a department that has worked for more than five years without a pay raise.
“We want to move as quickly as we can to give raises to each and every one of our officers,” the mayor told a packed auditorium on the campus of Gallaudet University.
Loud applause ensued. But there was a catch: No agreement has been reached between the city and union negotiators. And without a deal, the money won’t flow.
Gray said he will use part of the city’s $400 million budget surplus to fund the pay raises. “We are ready to move forward,” he told the crowd. “Because it’s the right thing to do.” And then he added, “We want to do this in a matter of weeks, if not days.”
But Gray didn’t offer the officers any details of what the pay package might look like, or what the sticking points are.
Kristopher Baumann, head of the city’s police union, wasn’t impressed.
“Mr. Gray has repeatedly made similar statements, and yet we are at an impasse in contract negotiations,” Baumann said in an email. “The actions of the District at the bargaining table have been, at best, inconsistent with Mr. Gray’s public statements.”
D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) said contract negotiations are critical to the city’s public safety agenda, but he walked a fine line between the two divided parties.
“The mayor is to be commended” to support a pay raise, Wells said.
In interviews, Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Paul Quander both declined to detail the issues that are keeping a contract from being signed.
Gray said in an interview that officers know that a signed contract is necessary for a pay raise to come through. He said he didn’t believe any of the city’s demands were “onerous,” though he offered no details on the city’s position.
As far as getting the two sides to reach a deal, Gray only offered: “If they will move, we’ll move.”