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WOODBRIDGE - New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Colligan today called on Trenton Council President Kathy McBride to allow a vote to take place on the resolution she recently tabled allocating $4 million in coronavirus relief funds for new radio equipment for the city’s first responders. 

McBride’s decision to pull the resolution without explanation in advance of Tuesday’s council meeting means Trenton’s police and first responders will soon have no means of communication to coordinate in the event of an emergency and can only result in putting city residents in peril. 

“Council President McBride appears to be prioritizing anything but the people she is supposed to represent in refusing to allow this resolution to come to a vote,” said Colligan.  “It is imperative that Trenton police and first responders have the means to effectively communicate and coordinate in the event of an incident, and the resources are available to achieve the commonsense solution of providing those services.  There is only one outcome for residents if this misguided decision to table Tuesday’s resolution is allowed to move forward, and it would simply defy all reason to knowingly put city residents in danger.”

Governor Murphy Signs Ticket Quota Ban Law

In a private ceremony in his office Governor Murphy today signed into law legislation the State PBA has pursued for years to ban police departments from using tickets and citations as a way to evaluate as well as punish officers.  The new law removes tickets and citations issued by an officer from their “performance evaluations” and prevents discipline for officers using tickets as a justification. 

“For far too long unscrupulous local governments and police supervisors have tried to establish inappropriate ticket quotas,” State PBA President Pat Colligan said after the signing.  “Police officers are not revenue collectors as some towns have tried to make them and creating quotas means ordering an officer to target motorists or face punishment.  That ends today.”

The private bill signing was attended by State PBA leadership in recognition of the PBA’s initiation of the bill and its pursuit of passing it this session. 

“I want to thank our sponsors Senator Turner, Senator Addiego, Assemblyman Wirths, Assemblyman Taliaferro and all the co-sponsors for taking on this fight for us”, Colligan said. “This law will go far to further build trust between New Jersey police and the public.”

NJ Appellate Division Affirms the Right of the City of Newark to Adopt & Enforce Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccinations Policy

The New Jersey Appellate Division issued a unanimous decision on September 27th, 2021 affirming the right of the City of Newark to adopt and enforce a policy requiring mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations without an option for testing in lieu of vaccinations.   Employees who violate the policy are subject to discipline up to and including discharge. The policy also includes exemptions for medical reasons and for sincerely held religious beliefs.

The case involved a challenge to the City’s policy by the City’s police and firefighter unions and the civilian unions.  PERC issued temporary restraints barring the City from implementing its policy pending negotiations over the impact of the policy.  The City then filed an emergent motion with the Appellate Division seeking to dissolve the restraints imposed by PERC.  In its decision, the Appellate Division concluded that Newark had a managerial prerogative to enforce its mandatory COVID vaccination policy which also would subject employees to discipline up to and including discharge.  The Court further concluded that the restraints imposed by PERC impermissibly interfered with the City’s managerial prerogative to protect the health and safety of its employees and City residents, and that negotiations over any impact issues could not interfere with the City’s ability to implement and enforce its vaccination mandate.

Because the Appellate Division decision was unanimous, there is no automatic right of appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court. The unions involved in this case are considering whether to file an emergent application with the Supreme Court to request that the court hear an appeal.  The State PBA does not have a voice in that decision because it is not the negotiations representative for the police officers in Newark.

2022 SHBP Rate Renewal Report

For the past several years we have had good news to share about the SHBP rates and while for the most part, this is true again for 2022, there is some bad news for the early retiree group in county and municipal government.

As we go through these numbers, please understand that national estimates on medical inflation are 6.5%-7% for 2022.

State Employees

We can start with the State Group (Active and Retired State Employees). For active members in Direct 15, HMO and Tiered Plan (commonly Omnia) your total rates will DECREASE by 4.8%. For those of you who have moved into the new CWA Unity Plans your rates have INCREASED 4.8% as of the writing of this update, we are not aware of PBA units who have actually migrated into this plan.

This data shows one of two things,  that either the other units are benefitting from our lower cost risk pool or that the executive branch and their actuary for the set the original rates for the new plan artificially low.

For State Early Retirees (those from retirement to age 65) you will see an INCREASE between 4.4% or 4.6% depending on your plan selection (Direct 15 is 4.6% higher). State Medicare retirees will see an INCREASE of 4.9% for 2022.

Active County and Municipal Employees

Members in this group have once again done very well with increases ranging from 1.9% to 2.4% with Direct 10 and 15 experiencing a 2.3% INCREASE, which is very favorable comparing to the public sector and national indices.

Now the bad news.

Early County and Municipal Retirees ( under age 65)

Let me start by saying that in 2018, AON presented that the reserve fund had been growing at a tremendous rate. We knew that this money belonged to the true payors and lobbied that it be returned to the members, towns and municipalities which it was through short term rate reductions. This resulted in a rate DECREASE of just under 37%. Since then, that reserve has been exhausted and there is just no more money to use to subsidize the rates which will effectively RAISE 2022 rates 31.8%. The Commission, who sets the rates actually reduced the PROJECTED reserve to 0.1 months for 2022 in order to smooth the hike as much as possible.

Now before you kill the messenger, we would like to quote from the September 2018 COPS Magazine Article on health benefits, “It is important to remember that these rates are a result of events that are one time occurrences and, without design changes are unsustainable. The assignment of excess funds from the CSR and the lowered experience (which may or may not continue) gave us an adjustment for 2019. National trends range from 4 percent to 10 percent increases,…”

When analyzing the rates over time you should know that the 2022 rates even with the increase due to the removal of the CSR subsidy, are LOWER than they were in 2018 as shown in the graph above.

In fact the average yearly raise from the beginning of plan year 2013 through the end of 2022 is under 1.6%. Now we know this doesn’t put any money in your pocket but the context has to be solely in the realm of health benefits and that is what this is meant to explain. 

Now what does that mean to you? If you do not contribute to your health benefits or pay a percentage of your pension toward health benefits, it should have no effect on you.

Chapter 330 members have some decisions to make, as you know, Chapter 330 retirees have an arrangement where the state pays 80% of the lowest cost managed plan so for 2022 that baseline is determined off of the Horizon HMO 2030. While the rates are not yet out for Chapter 330, my calculations would show that a family that is in that plan with no members that are Medicare age would go from paying $380.99 to paying $500.78 a month. As members chose plans with higher actuarial value, that cost will increase to where Direct 10 could go from $850.89 a month to $1,129.06 a month by my calculations.

For early retirees who are contributing to their premiums due to Chapter 78, the math is pretty simple, increase your contribution for your current plan by 31% so if you are single in Direct 10 and your pension is $80,000 a year you would be contributing 34% of the cost of your healthcare. The premium is currently $957.58 per month which would leave you a contribution of $325.58 a month in 2021. In 2022 with a premium of $1,262.95 you would be contributing $429.40.

Understanding that this is substantial and that most of our members in retirement are in Direct 10 and 15, the harsh effect on your pension checks will most likely make you look for cost savings. As open enrollment is in the near future, I will make sure that we do a plan comparison so you can make decisions that are best for you and your family.

Medicare Age (65+) County and Municipal Retirees

These retirees for the Medicare Advantage population are also suffering a higher than usual raise of 6.9% on their premium. This is due to an 8.4% on medical and a 5.7% increase on prescription coverage These rates are much lower so the numbers are not as paralyzing but none the less in line with national trends.

What about the Teachers Premium Holiday

What makes this early retiree increase hard to swallow is the fact that the Educators just announced that the employees and school districts will not pay premium in February and will have a premium decrease.

That all sounds great in a press release but here are the facts.

In 2016, we took bold steps to control costs in the SHBP, the School Employee’s Plan did not, this resulted in huge savings for both actives and retirees. These savings are what have kept our premiums lower than theirs to this day. For 2022, the SHBP Direct 10 monthly rate for a family, including prescription is $2,726.15. The SEHBP monthly premium for 2022 is $2,864.65. To simplify the SEHBP plan is $138.50 more a month than the SHBP which is $1,662 more a year or 5.1% more for the School Employees Direct 10. A one month holiday would be an 8.33% reduction for one year.

This does not take into the 5 years that the School Employees paid more than us before making substantive changes in plan design to restrict abusive and predatory practices from occurring. This whole Holiday is the SEHBP giving the members back their own money, ironically in an election year. The educators plan continues to withhold the members money from them by maintaining a projected 6.3 month balance of premiums in the bank (the recommended number is 2 months). It is also important to know that retirees up to age 65 were forced into this plan.

Like the CWA plan, the new Educators plan changed payments from a Fair Health index to a Medicare index for out of network services. The percentage that they chose (200) sounds good, but is far lower than the current Fair Health National 90th percentile. This could expose our members to OON providers looking for larger payments from the member. The CWA/Direct 2019 plan rates show this concept, while possibly feasible in other payment structures, was flawed. The problem with relying on the in network payment structure, is that nobody but the carrier truly knows what it is!

Lastly is that in our experience, when new plans are developed the rates are set artificially. They are based on actuarial science, but not always exact. We suspect that the CWA/Direct plan premiums were set too low and that could have been one of the reasons for the almost 10% swing between plans this year. We hope their plan is successful and will watch it closely, but until the state demands network transparency from the carriers, we have to tread lightly in this realm.

Effect on Negotiations

No doubt, if you are in negotiations this will be a topic an employer will bring up, the fact of the matter is that local employers got a break for 4 years because of plan design changes and the rates are still LESS than they were in 2018. Remind them of that if they think it should have a place in negotiations, its also important for you to know that SHBP rate increases over the cap are outside of it.

Tags: SHBP, Retirees
Assembly Bill 5864 - Body Worn Cameras

A Bill was introduced yesterday to permit officers to review body worn cameras.
Legislation was introduced yesterday, Assembly Bill 5864, that will eliminate the prohibition on officers being able to review their body worn cameras (BWC) while writing their initial reports. We look forward to the Senate Bill very soon.
The prohibition on reviewing BWC images for report writing has been a concern for the State PBA since it became a part of Attorney General policy a few years ago.  And during the consideration of the bill to mandate BWC use by police the State PBA publicly lobbied to permit officers to review camera footage.  Unfortunately, the current restriction on reviewing camera footage presents significant concerns for law enforcement officers in writing clear and detailed reports.
Fortunately, the bill has been fast trackedand is already scheduled for a vote in the Assembly Homeland Security Committee on June 14th.  The State PBA will strongly support it.
We commend Assemblywoman Shanique Speight (D-Newark), a State PBA member and Essex County Sheriff’s Officer, who recognized the serious implications of preventing an officer from reviewing their BWC for report writing and requested the bill be drafted soon after the BWC mandate took effect.  State PBA President Colligan, Executive Vice President Kovar and Director of Government Affairs Nixon met with the Assemblywoman at the State PBA office to discuss the bill and other pressing matters facing law enforcement.  The State PBA is grateful for her leadership on this issue and for being a thoughtful voice for law enforcement as a member of the Legislature. 

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NJ Cops Magazine

November 2021 Back Issues
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President's Message

Patrick Colligan, NJSPBA President Patrick Colligan, President

If they can do it to us…

This year has certainly been one for the ages. A global pandemic, hurricanes, wildfires, the most divisive presidential election in our history, the murder of George Floyd, an asteroid that might hit be-fore election day and – because we haven’t had quite enough yet – murder hornets. I can hardly wait for November and December!

Needless to say, a few of these issues have had a profound effect on us in New Jersey. Twelve New Jersey officers lost their lives to COVID-19. Nine of them were PBA members. Some 120 officers throughout the country succumbed to the horrible disease, and tens of thousands of our brother and sister officers were profoundly affected. Many will never return to work.

As bad as we thought COVID was, May 25 was a day that changed policing forever. Some changes certainly will be for the better. Some will be downright dangerous, not only for the women and men who choose to do this job, but also for the citizens we’ve sworn to protect and serve.

So let’s fast forward to the federal Justice in Policing Act. In the rush to “do some-thing,” Congress drafted a really bad bill. The group that enjoys absolute immunity wants to take away our qualified immunity. I hope the “qualified” sufficiently describes our immunity. Yes, you are correct. We have to qualify for the immunity from lawsuits filed for damages resulting our mistakes. If you chose to act in a way that shocks the conscience or is so outside the norms of normal police work, you’re on your own. (And frankly, you should be). We make mistakes, no doubt about it. We aren’t Walmart greeters. We are in a dangerous and often ugly business. But many forget about that.

Some members of our New Jersey congressional delegation chose to sign onto that bill. One of them was even a co-sponsor. We’ve enjoyed some very close relationships and friendships with our delegation over the years. I hope I don’t have to tell you we were on the phone immediately after that bill came up. Marc, Rob and I were on some very long calls telling representatives exactly what that would do to our members and the very future of recruiting qualified candidates. A severe recruiting problem already exists.

There was no ambiguity in our conversations whatsoever. Removing qualified immunity was an absolute line in the sand. Of course, they were free to support the bill, but not without consequences.

I guess more than one of these elected officials thought we were bluffing. As they know by now, we weren’t. We have either walked away from our support or backed another congressional candidate. Yes, not without repercussions, but I live by a pretty simple rule in my life: Win, lose or draw, the day I can’t look myself in the mirror, I’ll walk away from this position.

Their unanimous answer of “it’s not passing anyway” was a shallow, feeble excuse. Depending on this election, that bill will probably be back and the “it’s not passing anyway” excuse won’t be such a shallow answer anymore.

So the delegation says, “If they do it to us, they can do it to anybody.” Not so quick folks. Maybe you weren’t listening to us on those calls. It was a line in the sand and unlike some of you, I mean what I say. The difference is, I can still proudly look at myself in a mirror today.