SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Sarasota Police Union is pushing for better benefits and pay for its men and women in blue. The union has been in negotiations with the City of Sarasota for seven months and the two parties are entering their final days of negotiations with current contracts set to expire at the end of September.

“I requested to start negotiations in February, which is a little bit earlier than normal. Taking over the union, I wanted to try to get ahead of the curve,” said union president and Sarasota Police Officer Eric Urbain. “I realized and first saw there being some staffing issues so I wanted to make sure that we had the best competitive package that we could to recruit and retain people.”

The union president said about 80% of the contract is tentatively agreed upon, but the remaining articles, he said, are arguably the most important; Pay, leave, health, benefits, and other things of that nature.

“Our shortage levels right now are more than what they have ever been. In the 2000-2005 era, there were about 200 officers with roll call briefings of 20 people or so. Now, we are struggling to get 12 or 13 on the road at any given time,” said Officer Urbain. “Our numbers are definitely down. At some point something is going to give, but it hasn’t happened yet and I think that is just due to the credit of the men and women that wear the uniform like I do refusing to allow anything to happen,” he continued.

The starting pay for officers is currently around $55,000. Officer Urbain says the ask is $65,874 and 18% across-the-board for sergeants, lieutenants and such. The union believes that the increase will keep Sarasota PD competitive with other agencies hiring in the region.

In a video released a few days ago, the police union shared body-worn camera footage of the different scenarios officers face each day they put on their uniform and badge.

City representatives were not available for comment Monday. However, in a previous statement, the city said they have been active participants in negotiations, and officers received increases in each of the past three years that were negotiated.

The following is a statement released by the City of Sarasota back in June.

Since February 2022, City management representatives have regularly participated in multiple negotiation sessions with the IUPA bargaining unit. From the beginning, we have negotiated in good faith and in accordance with Florida Statute 447, which outlines collective bargaining practices. We have been active participants, responded to numerous proposals and listened to the IUPA members during the negotiations. We will continue to do so, as we do not see this as a win/lose proposal but an opportunity for both sides to present information and come to acceptable agreements. While negotiations began in February, previous police collective bargaining agreements have taken 1.5 to 2 years to finalize.

While we are in active negotiations with the IUPA, we want our residents to know that:

  • Sarasota police officers, sergeants and criminalists received pay increases in each of the past three years that were negotiated and agreed to by the IUPA union.
  • The City of Sarasota does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability or marital status. These classes are already protected under state and federal law as well as local ordinance, and the City abides by those regulations in all its employment-related decisions.
  • Public safety is the highest priority for our City. Just this year, the City Commission approved the unprecedented addition of 10 new police officer positions to the City’s budget, an investment of approximately $1.2 million. Our budgeted strength of officers is at its highest level since 2008, and we continue to recruit and develop a qualified team of professionals dedicated to serving our community. The public can rest assured that we will respond whenever we’re called.

We respect and honor the service of all our employees, and we look forward to additional professional and productive negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement.

The next negotiation is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 16 at the Federal Building located at 111 South Orange Avenue, Sarasota. The meeting will be open to the public.