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LOCKPORT – The reorganization of the Lockport Police Department, prompted by a new union contract and a batch of retirements, begins today with a different shift schedule and some new brass.

Four patrolmen and a detective were promoted to patrol lieutenant positions in a City Hall ceremony Thursday, following the retirement Monday of four other officers.

Police Chief Lawrence M. Eggert said the department will switch from three eight-hour shifts per day to two 12-hour shifts, starting this morning.

The patrol force has been divided into four platoons instead of three, and the promotions came in response to a need for more commanders.

The new lieutenants are Travis A. Mapes, who was a detective, and former Patrolmen Rodney J. Peters, Anthony D. Pittman, Marshall K. Belling and Kendra L. DiTullio.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said the newly ratified contract between the city and the Hickory Club Police Benevolent Association, the police union, sets the department’s authorized strength at 45 members plus the chief, who is not in the union.

At present, there are 44 officers on the force, but Tucker said he’s not sure the vacancy will be filled soon, given the city’s financial woes. Lockport is rated “financially stressed” by the State Comptroller’s Office, having exhausted its fund balance.

The city’s 2014 budget, which called for laying off 16 employees, was prepared with state auditors looking over the Common Council’s shoulder.

However, the new police union contract included an incentive that produced four retirements, thus canceling out the four planned layoffs in the Police Department.

One firefighter also retired, thus reducing the number of layoffs in the Fire Department from eight to seven. Those job cuts take effect today, Tucker said.

Eggert said police officers will be working fewer days but more hours under the new schedule. Tucker said that should result in less overtime. “The chief thinks we could save as much as $175,000 (a year) in overtime,” the mayor said.

The city’s habit of underbudgeting police and fire overtime was a particularly sore point with the state auditors.

The Hickory Club contract, which is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2013, freezes police pay through 2016. The officers will receive 1.5 percent raises in January and July 2017 and in January and July 2018.

The early retirement incentive offered officers a payment of $1,000 for each year of service, with a limit of $30,000, Alderman Patrick W. Schrader said.

Tucker said the contractually required payment for the retirees’ unused sick and vacation time won’t start until 2015 and will be spread out over four to 10 years, easing the immediate financial strain on the city.

Other layoffs taking effect this week include building inspector David Miller and streets laborer George Wiley. However, Wiley’s job may be saved, Schrader said, because the layoff may have violated a no-layoff deal the city made with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in 2011, when that blue-collar union allowed the city to privatize garbage collection.

Tucker said Susan E. Israel, a senior account clerk in the City Clerk’s Office, remains on the payroll, transferring to a vacant job in the City Assessor’s Office.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com