In recent county contract negotiations with the Westchester County Correction Officers Association (COBA), the George Latimer administration offered a mere 2-year deal, providing a 3% increase for 2020 and another 3% for 2021, totaling just 6%.
However, County Executive George Latimer’s statement on the Westchester County website claims that the agreement with the District Attorney’s Investigators PBA aligns with other union agreements. This contract spans five years, from 2020 to 2024, with increases as follows: 3% in 2020, 3% in 2021, 2% in 2022, 2% in 2023, and 2.75% in 2024.
The question arises: Why have the hardworking correction officers been overlooked for 2022, 2023, and 2024? What explanation does the George Latimer Administration have for this?
We must raise a clear and compelling question: Why are hardworking Correction Officers being neglected? Westchester County proudly touts its Department of Correction as the only nationally accredited county law enforcement department by the American Correction Association (ACA). Meanwhile, the County Police do not have national accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA). These facts demand an explanation for why the Latimer Administration would disregard dedicated Correction Officers.
Adding insult to injury, as per the County Executive’s own police review report, Westchester County Correction Officers are not only better trained than County Police in de-escalation and Mental Health observation but are still being denied the same respect as other unions with fair wages.
To be crystal clear, during the COVID-19 pandemic, while most county departments were conducting Zoom meetings from home, County Police were largely inactive, and District Attorney Investigators stayed home due to closed courts. The undeniable reality is that the entire county government shut down, with one exception—the county jail.
In stark contrast, Westchester County Correction Officers diligently reported to work each day during the pandemic inside a jail with inadequate ventilation. They frequently endured exhausting 16-hour shifts, five days a week, often sacrificing precious time with their families. These officers knew they’d be away from home for a grueling 16 hours every day of the week.
This is the gratitude George Latimer offers to Correction Officers who sacrificed so much during COVID-19 and continue to face COVID-19 challenges in 2023. Quarantines persist in county jail housing areas, and officers continue to wear masks to protect against this deadly virus.
There exists a glaring lack of respect for a department that has historically employed more Black men than any other civil service department in the County. Moreover, the Department of Corrections has a track record of promoting Black individuals up to the commissioner level. Despite celebrating this advancement in Black leadership, the County fails to recognize the same value regarding the salaries of their white counterparts in other county departments.
The county’s statement claims commitment to the unions and public safety, with confidence in reaching an agreement with the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association and the Superior Officers Association by the end of next week. However, offering Correction Officers a two-year contract won’t suffice. We see through this disrespect.
This disingenuous disparity raises severe concerns about equality and fairness within the County. Hardworking and highly-trained Corrections Officers deserve equitable treatment and compensation for their invaluable contributions to the community. The County must address this issue transparently and rectify the pay discrepancy to demonstrate proper respect and appreciation for the Corrections Officers’ dedication and professionalism.
If George Latimer genuinely believes in equality, it is hypocrisy to use contract negotiations to perpetuate inequity and bias against better-trained, predominantly Black and Brown Correction Officers while favoring other primarily white unions.
This serves as a clear warning to county elected officials. Westchester County Corrections boasts the largest law enforcement union in the county, with close to 750 members, and there are more retirees than active in the New York Metro area. We will not tolerate disrespect from elected officials who have never worked in jail and disregard our sacrifices and hard work. We are prepared to take action at the ballot box at the next County Executive election rather than tolerate continued disrespect.