Fountain Valley : Police to Picket City Hall to Protest Contract Offer

After months of negotiations over a new contract, the city's police officers are expected to picket City Hall this morning to protest the final contract offer announced by officials to the police association last week.

The officers plan to demonstrate through the day until the City Council meeting tonight at 8 because the "city refuses to compromise," police spokesman Chris Keilich said.

The city and police officers' association have reached an impasse after holding contract talks since October, according to Assistant City Manager Ray Kromer. The officers' contract expired on Dec. 1. The disagreement has centered on a salary hike that the officers say is not sufficient and a clause that would allow management to change policies during the life of the contract, spokesmen for both sides said.

City officials said that eliminating the "maintenance of benefits" clause would return management power to the police chief. But the officers association contends that removing the clause would allow the city to change the contract after it is ratified.

The city wants to give the officers a 5% increase for each of the next two years, while the officers are demanding increases this year of 6% for officers and 7% for sergeants, which the officers said would bring their salaries up to the county average.

The average police officer in Orange County earns $2,652 monthly, compared to an average of $2,506 in Fountain Valley. Sergeants in the city average $3,000 monthly, compared to $3,200 for the county.

But Kromer said the total package being offered to the police officers is comparable to other county departments when medical, dental and retirement benefits are included.

Capt. John Bedlow said that while police management officials, which have just started contract negotiations with the city, cannot condone the picketing, they also do not condemn it.

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