City, Tulsa Police Still Working Out Furlough Plan

Friday, July 17th 2009, 5:19 pm
By: News On 6

By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Tulsa Police officers recently voted to accept eight days off without pay to avoid layoffs.  At the time, they believed they'd be able to space those days out over a year, but have since been told that's not the case.  So, things are on hold while the union and city talk.  Some officers claim the furlough days won't save money, but will actually cost the city more.

The Tulsa Police Department has minimum staffing levels designed to keep the city safe.  If it falls below that level, officers are hired back at time and a half of their regular salary.

07/08/2009 Related Story: Tulsa Police Choose Furloughs Over Layoffs

The News On 6 found two examples of furlough days causing hire backs last weekend.  Both were at the Tulsa Police Uniform Division East.  Two officers were on furlough days and two officers called in sick, which put the division below minimum staffing levels, so they had to hire back a couple of other officers at time and a half.  So, the furlough days designed to save money actually cost the city more money.

"The furlough days put us at minimum staffing levels, had people called in sick after that. We weren't able to reach those individuals to call back into work because they were probably out of town," said Tulsa Police Major Walter Evans.

Major Evans says hire backs were a fact of life before furlough days.  And, he says the instance was unique and he doesn't believe it will happen often.  He says there is a way to manage furlough days so they don't affect minimum staffing levels.

"Bottom line is, we erred and we can tighten that up, fix that, correct those," said Tulsa Police Major Walter Evans.

He says commanders have the authority to cancel furlough days and even tell officers when to take them, but they were trying to ease the sting of unpaid days and let officers schedule them, much like vacation days.

Of course, it is all a moot point for the moment since the furlough days are on hold as the city and the union go back to the drawing board.

"Still waiting with bated breath to see what's going to happen, have no idea whatsoever," said Tulsa Police Major Walter Evans.

Until a decision is made, it's business as usual.

The Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police and the City of Tulsa met on Friday.  The union plans to hold a meeting on Monday night to talk to officers about whether the furlough days will still happen and how they may be taken.