BRIDGEPORT — The City Council has approved a new contract with the city police union.

"When it comes to first responders, you've got to do right by them," said City Councilman Angel M. DePara Jr., D-136, who seconded the motion to approve the four-year agreement with Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159. The pact expires July 1, 2008; the union's previous contract expired June 30, 2004.

A vote on the contract was added to the council's Monday night agenda during the meeting.

The new contract gives retroactive salary increases of 2.5 percent for both 2004 and 2005, and 3 percent increases in both 2006 and 2007.

A starting officer is paid a base salary of $37,964.

Officer Frank Cuccaro, the union vice president, said he had expected the contract to pass the council because Mayor John M. Fabrizi and the union had already agreed on it.

But he appreciated the early vote.

"It wasn't expected until mid-December," he said. "We're glad we could put this one to bed and concentrate on the next one.

"We're not going to wait until the last minute on this one. We're going to reach out to the city next year to get the ball rolling."

The union accepted higher health-care premiums and co-payments, but language in the workers' compensation and sick leave sections was changed from a version the union had overwhelmingly rejected in September.

The union approved the second contract proposal by more than 2-1.

Fabrizi said he asked council member Richard M. Paoletto Jr., D-138, co-chairman of the council's Contracts Committee, to act on the contract because the city will gain $25,000 a month in revenues from the increased health insurance payments.

"It was an issue of timing," Fabrizi said. "If we didn't do it at November's meeting, the earliest we could get it done is at the last meeting in December.

"I wanted the city to start realizing those revenues right away." Meanwhile, the city has scheduled two negotiation dates in November with the Bridgeport Fire Fighters Association Local 834, said Firefighter Robert Whitbread, union president.

The firefighters' contract also expired in June 2004.

Aaron Leo, who covers regional issues, can be reached at 330-6222.