New York State Ramapo Police Commission puts off modified schedules for officers By: Steve Lieberman - Friday, October 17th, 2008 'The Journal News' / White Plains, NY RAMAPO
Ramapo officials yesterday made no decisions on requests from 40 police officers for revised work schedules based on their religious beliefs and personal needs. Ramapo officials and police administrators opened the door for specific days off when they gave Orthodox Jewish Officer Baile Glauber off on Friday nights and Saturdays for the Sabbath. Glauber got those days off two weeks after starting in June. At the same time, department administrators have not yet scheduled Officer Ernst Tenemille for Friday nights and Saturdays off after the Police Commission approved that schedule for him last month.
Tenemille asked for those days off in June after Glauber got approved. Tenemille contends his beliefs as a Seventh-day Adventist warrant those days off. Police Chief Peter Brower said yesterday that Tenemille has not yet responded to his memo seeking specifics on his requests for days off. "I sent a memo to officer Tenemille asking him about his needs," Brower said. "He has to send me a list of all the days he needs and any conflicts. I have yet to hear from Officer Tenemille." Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence and Councilwoman Frances Hunter yesterday sided with Brower. Hunter, who pushed for Tenemille to get his religious days off, said Tenemille has to follow department protocol and put his request through the chief.
Police union President Dennis Procter said the department still was playing games with Tenemille after putting off his request for months. Procter said Tenemille has made his position clear for months on what days he wants off. The Policemen's Benevolent Association already has filed a grievance against the town for violating the police contract by negotiating separate work schedules with Glauber. A state arbitrator will hear both sides next month in Albany. Procter said yesterday that the town continues to give Glauber special treatment in violation of the union contract.
Traditionally, he said, police officers work religious and secular holidays and weekends off and on, depending on their rank and seniority. Procter says officers agree to those terms when they join the force. "She's the only one getting an accommodation and it's in violation of our contract," Procter said (***and the U.S. Constitution). "Our position is everyone has to be treated equally. And any changes in policy must be negotiated with the union. They have negotiated with the individual officers." St. Lawrence told PBA officials and 50 officers at the meeting that the commission would consider all requests yesterday.
The commission comprises Town Board members. St. Lawrence said yesterday that Brower is working on an overall policy that would allow all 124 officers to put in for religious days off throughout the year. St. Lawrence said the plan involves an absence without pay program that would meet state and federal law, as well as the police contract provisions. Under that concept, officers could take off religious days without pay after using up all their contracted days off for personal reasons, family emergencies and vacations. Procter said the union supports Brower's efforts to come up with a policy that treats all the officers the same.
Procter yesterday criticized the town for devising a policy without input from the union - which Procter said is necessary under the police contract. Only Councilman David Stein supported a committee that included the union and possibly himself to work with the chief and town attorney on the plan. Stein said he was not happy with setting up special schedules for the two officers. He wanted a policy that works for all the officers. Hunter last month suggested an overall policy rather than the commission making decisions on individual officers.
St. Lawrence and Hunter said the union will be involved eventually in the discussions. "The policy we will come up with will be the same for every officer," St. Lawrence said. "The contract, we believe, allows the chief to set schedules." St. Lawrence said the commission would meet in special session as soon as the chief finishes up the policy.