BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Nearly half the Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159 has voted "no confidence" in Chief Bryan T. Norwood and Mayor Bill Finch.
The ballots, tallied Monday night, show 187 police officers voted no confidence in the administration while 27 voted against the no-confidence motion. Ballots were mailed to the union members two weeks ago.
The vote is symbolic and has no practical impact on the chief, who is chosen by the mayor. Norwood was sworn in April 2006, and has a five-year contract.
But the vote indicates deep discontent with the ranks of city police, said Officer Frank Cuccaro, the union president.
"It shows that the Police Department as a whole doesn't support the actions of the chief or the mayor regarding the contract and the way the mayor's trying to change the workings of the department," Cuccaro said.
The chief declined Tuesday to make immediate comments on the no-confidence vote, but indicated he would discuss his views today.
The police union of 442 sworn officers has been working without a contract since June 30, and the cash-strapped city hasn't offered raises, in addition to demanding givebacks from all municipal unions.
The no-confidence vote follows criticism by Finch last week that the Police Department exceeded its inside overtime budget by $1.3 million in the 2007-08 fiscal year, contributing to a $19 million deficit in the overall budget last year.
Finch also criticized the ballooning overtime because some of the top earners are deputy chiefs and other police supervisors. Police of all ranks can be members of the union, except the chief.
Finch wants overtime reined in, but Cuccaro said less overtime would jeopardize public safety by leaving shifts with fewer officers.
On average, 21 officers per shift provide coverage for the city's three patrol sectors, a deployment that can rise as high as 30 officers per shift, he said.
"It's going to hurt the response time," Cuccaro said. He added that officers earn the city $10 an hour for overtime road jobs, bringing the city $1 million in compensations from contractors.
Finch said he would "do what's in the best interest of the citizens of Bridgeport and public safety."
"I will not play politics with public safety," the mayor said.
He also supports Norwood, who has added 46 officers to the department and expanded its crime-fighting technology.
"I have great confidence in Bryan Norwood. One has to look no further than how Bridgeport compares with other major cities in our state to see how successful Chief Norwood has been," Finch said.
The last vote of no confidence in a city police chief was taken in 2004 against Norwood's predecessor, Wilbur Chapman, which failed.
Meanwhile, Cuccaro has pledged the union will picket Finch and Norwood at the first Mayor's Cup Golf Tournament, co-sponsored by the Connecticut Post, on Friday at the Fairchild Wheeler Golf Club. He has invited members of other municipal unions with complaints against the administration to join the demonstration.