LEWISTON — The City Council unanimously approved a police union contract Thursday that will take the department through June 2024.

Officials said the agreement, which came more than a year before the contract expires, is a sign that both sides are looking out for the best interest of the city, especially during the unprecedented public health crisis.

“We certainly need to recognize the conditions and circumstances that our public safety personnel, both police and fire, are operating under at this time,” City Administrator Ed Barrett said. “They are out there in the community, they cannot shelter at home. They’re interacting with the public, trying to keep them safe.”

According to a City Council memo, the city and the local chapter of the Maine Association of Police decided to prematurely negotiate a new agreement after “recently discussing a number of issues.”

“The parties also felt that such an agreement should be discussed in the context of limiting the number of issues on the table,”  the memo states.

Tom Murphy, president of the local police union, said the contract will not be finalized until the union takes a formal vote to approve it, which has been stalled due to the coronavirus. He expects a vote to occur remotely this week.

The current agreement expires June 30, 2021. That contract, agreed to in 2018, came after weeks of stalled negotiations during a turbulent summer for police in Lewiston. During the negotiations, patrol officers wore green T-shirts on the job to express dissatisfaction with the situation. At the time, the city and union were in mediation via the Maine Labor Relations Board.

“I think settling this contract and putting it to bed this early sends a message that shows the city’s support for the folks who are out there on the front lines,” Barrett said Thursday.

According to Deputy City Administrator Denis D’Auteuil, the new contract, beginning July 1, 2021, consists of 2.5% cost-of-living adjustment on July 1 of each year of the contract and another 0.5% on Jan. 1 of each year.

“It also shows support from police officers for this community,” Mayor Mark Cayer said. “They came to the table as well to get this contract done quickly.”

The three-year agreement will take the Police Department through June 30, 2024. The union represents the patrol officers, detectives and corporals of the Lewiston Police Department.

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