NIAGARA FALLS - A judge has ruled that four Niagara Falls police officers have been doing the work of detectives for years and should be titled - and paid - accordingly.
State Supreme Court Justice Ralph A. Boniello III signed an order Friday that the city must give crime-scene officers Jason G. Sykes, Marc C. Martinez, Todd N. Faddoul and Shawn S. Arndt the title of detective, and retroactively pay them for a detective's duties since they became crime-scene officers.
Edward P. Perlman, who represented the officers, said Monday that the back pay "is probably $3,000 to $3,500 per year, per man."
Deputy Corporation Counsel Christopher M. Mazur said Monday that the city will appeal Boniello's ruling.
Basing their claim on state civil service law, the officers asserted that they were entitled to be promoted to detective after 18 months of doing equivalent work on "temporary assignment" in the crime-scene unit. Martinez joined the crime-scene unit in June 2001, Sykes in July 2007, Arndt in September 2007 and Faddoul in September 2008.
Mazur argued that, in "the opinion of everybody in the department hierarchy," crime officers' duties are "separate and distinct from what detectives do."
Boniello didn't buy it. He noted that Capt. William M. Thomson, chief of detectives, "acknowledged on the [witness] stand that the job descriptions for prospective applicants to become [crime scene officers] are vague. Significantly, there is no clear distinction between the day-in and day-out work [of detectives and crime-scene officers]."
The only difference Boniello could find between the two job titles was that detectives perform interrogations and make arrests. That wasn't enough of a difference to lead him to throw out of the four officers' suit, which was filed in March of this year.
Perlman said he wasn't surprised the city will appeal, since "the city has refused to meet with us any step along the way." He added that he offered to have his clients forgo the back pay if the Police Department would give them the title of detective.
"The city wouldn't even respond. It's par for the course," Perlman said.