Police Ratify Tentative Two-Year Contract : POA Accepts 17% Raise, Stops Supporting Ballot Initiative

Times Staff Writer

San Diego police officers Friday overwhelmingly ratified a tentative two-year contract and immediately agreed to stop supporting their June ballot initiative asking for a $10-million pay increase next year. City officials have warned that the measure could lead to budgetary chaos at City Hall.

By a vote of 939 to 299, members of the San Diego Police Officers Assn. accepted a 17% pay increase for most of the force--the same percentage asked for in the ballot initiative, but over two years rather than all at once. The measure would also establish a four-day work week, an arrangement calculated to boost the number of police officers on duty during the night.

With acceptance of the pact, the police organization is now in the position of hoping that its own initiative, which has already qualified for the June primary ballot, will fail. It has promised not to campaign for the measure that, ironically, helped drive both sides to hammer out the two-year contract.

"We would not have this benefit package without the initiative, there is no doubt about that," said Ty Reid, police association president. "Recent polls that have been released showing voter support 3-to-1 in favor woke some people up. . . . It's the first sign of good faith that we've seen from city management on this issue in many years."

Acting Mayor Ed Struiksma called the two-year contract a "win-win situation." Not only will it "go a long way in boosting the morale of the Police Department," said Struiksma, a former policeman, but it will also allow the city enough budgetary leeway to add more officers starting in July, the beginning of the city's fiscal year.

The proposed contract, which is scheduled Monday for formal City Council approval, will give 85% of the police officers a 9% raise starting in July, an increase that will cost the city $4.5 million more to pay the police. The second year, the officers will receive an 8% raise worth $4.3 million, said Jack McGrory, assistant to the city manager.

In addition, the city will spend $460,000 as start-up costs for the four-day work week, said McGrory. That money will be necessary to buy the extra patrol cars required by the schedule because more officers will be on the street during the peak crime hours of 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

McGrory said city officials preferred this system to the one-time, $10-million raise called for by the initiative. City Manager Sylvester Murray has told the council that the proposal--pegging the pay rate of San Diego police to that of their colleagues in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Jose, Long Beach and the California Highway Patrol--would cost $130 million over the next decade. And if all city employees received similar 17% increases, the city's payroll would grow by another $260 million over the next decade.

Aside from the fiscal implications, city officials had opposed the measure because it removes from the City Council the authority to set wages for city employees. They were fearful the measure would create a precedent that would erode the power of elected officials.

Despite Friday's agreement between police and the city, the pay initiative is still on the ballot. The City Council, left no choice by law, voted Feb. 18 to place it before voters in the statewide June primary.

Dean Klampe, the city's elections officer, said keeping the initiative on the ballot will cost the city approximately $45,000, mostly for printing costs to include it in a sample ballot mailed to a half-million registered voters. "Council made the decision that it was to go on the next election, and there's just no mechanism for retracting it," he said.

The police association has agreed to withdraw all support for the measure.

Instead, it has promised to support a rival ballot measure by the city that affirms the council's right to set salaries, but paves the way for multi-year contracts with municipal employees by calling for an amendment to the City Charter. The charter now only allows for one-year contracts, and changing that provision would make the tentative contract complete.

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