LEWISTON — In response to stalled contract negotiations between the city and the police union, patrol officers will wear specially made, green T-shirts on the job to express dissatisfaction with the situation, a union representative said. 

Corey Jacques, president of the local chapter of the Maine Association of Police, announced the action late Tuesday, with city officials responding early Wednesday, threatening disciplinary action. 

Jacques, a Lewiston detective, said in a statement negotiations are ongoing with city administration to resolve the issue. The contract expired June 30, and the city and union are in mediation via the Maine Labor Relations Board.

Jacques said members of the police union voted recently on the job action “that will take effect in the near future, barring action by the Lewiston City Council.”

He described the shirts as highly marked with police identifiers and a Lewiston police badge.

The action mirrors one taken by the Lewiston Fire Department during its more-than-three-year contract dispute that ended in September 2017.

“The union body feels that this is a way to express our dissatisfaction with the situation in a respectful, visible and professional way that does not have any impact on the service we are dedicated to provide to this community,” he said.

“The shirts were all bought with union money to ensure that no cost was passed on to the taxpayer.” 

The union represents the patrol officers, detectives and corporals of the Lewiston Police Department. Supervisors will continue to be in the standard uniform — a collared, navy blue, button-down shirt. 

The city’s response Wednesday said the administration is concerned about the green T-shirts.

“These T-shirts have not been issued or approved by the Police Department, and we are concerned that, since they are not consistent with our standard uniform, members of the public may not recognize individuals dressed in this manner as legitimate police officers, resulting in confusion that may result in safety issues for both the public and the officers,” the city’s statement read.

“While we recognize and support the rights of our employees to make their concerns known to our residents, the potential safety issues raised by this action will leave the city with no choice but to implement the city’s system of progressive discipline.” 

Denis D’Auteuil, the deputy city administrator, said the disciplinary action will be a series of punishments, including oral reprimands, written reprimands and suspensions for each day the force is violating the uniform policy. After three days of being in violation, suspensions can be handed down, but are only served as police administration sees fit. 

“We’re not going to be suspending the entire department. Obviously, it wouldn’t be feasible,” he said. “The message we’re mainly concerned with is that the public understands that these are officers being asked to comply until we get this resolved.” 

Jacques defended the T-shirts.

“The union ensured that the final product did not allow for any confusion or questioning of the identity of police officers,” Jacques said. “These shirts were made exclusively for members of the department and are not available to the public to ensure that there is no confusion with identifying members of the community.

“We also recognize that regardless of the uniform our officers wear, they are very well known in the community as they are committed to the safety of the public and businesses that operate here, and regardless of the uniform, most are recognized merely on sight while in public.”

The city’s statement also urged the public to recognize the out-of-uniform officers as legitimate, “should the labor action continue for any period of time.”

Lewiston police officers start their shift Wednesday afternoon in green T-shirts instead of blue uniforms to show dissatisfaction over contract negotiations. (WGME photos)

Lewiston police patrol officer Craig Johnson holds up a T-shirt that police officers plan to wear while in contract negotiations with the city. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

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