As the Boston City Council votes today on an arbitrator’s award of a 25.4 percent raise over six years for patrolmen, the sole justification for this hefty increase is that it puts police pay back on par with that of firefighters. It’s a weak argument, because it fails to account for money police collect through overtime and paid details. But even a weak argument is enough for the politically powerful police union to bowl over enough politically timid city councilors. Many councilors, including council President Stephen Murphy, have been transparently searching for any reason to give the patrolmen what they want, a move that would cost the city tens of millions of dollars that could, for instance, eliminate the 3,000-child waiting list for pre-kindergarten in Boston schools.
The fig leaf seems to be this: Murphy is filing a home-rule petition that defines parity, between police and firefighters, as “base wages” — that is, as income that factors into a pension. Thus, councilors can argue that they’re putting an end to the old game in which firefighters demand huge increases because police make so much more in overtime and details, after which policemen demand equally huge increases on the grounds that overtime and details don’t count toward pensions.