Canine officers in the Buffalo Police Department are not the only ones trying to put the bite on the city for more money.
The police union is representing patrol officers who claim they are entitled to the same hazardous duty pay canine officers receive when they search a building for a bomb.
Officers who have police dogs for partners receive an extra four hours of pay if they perform a bomb search during their regular tour of duty. In situations where a canine unit is unavailable, patrol officers will conduct the search, but they are currently not given extra money.
Lt. Robert P. Meegan Jr., president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, says the grievances seeking the additional pay for patrol officers are not an attempt to squeeze more money from the city.
The union is instead trying to protect patrol officers by forcing the city to call in the specialized canine units to perform the searches, Meegan said Monday.
"We don't want to put officers in a position that could be extremely detrimental to their lives and limbs when there are trained dogs that have the ability to detect explosives," he said.
To cut corners, the union chief claims the city has avoided summoning canine officers and their dogs to conduct searches after a bomb threat has been made.
"It is about money as far as the city is concerned because they won't call in canine officers," he said.
He accused the city of failing to live up to terms of its contract with the union.
More than 20 grievances seeking the hazardous duty pay are pending before an arbitrator who conducted a hearing on the case last summer. The extra four hours in salary totals $82.36 for an officer at the top of the pay scale.
Deputy Police Commissioner George M. Loncar described the grievances as ludicrous.
"I would much rather go into a building searching for a bomb than for someone with a gun," Loncar said. "It's absolutely ludicrous. It's greed."
Police Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said the whole notion of hazardous duty pay for police officers is unwarranted.
"There probably should have never been hazardous duty pay because it is impossible to define," Kerlikowske said.
In addition to canine officers, members of the Underwater Recovery and SWAT teams are contractually entitled to hazardous duty pay.
The Common Council later today, in an unrelated pay issue regarding canine officers, is expected to vote on a proposed settlement of $250,000 in back pay for the officers.
The officers want remuneration for taking the animals home with them at the end of each shift and caring for the dogs.