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Bradley Rips Police Deal on Drug Tests : City Council: Mayor calls extra vacation time for 50 officers an ‘outrageously excessive’ sweetener.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An agreement to require random drug-testing of nearly 6,000 Los Angeles police officers is in jeopardy because Mayor Tom Bradley has angrily rejected the City Council-backed demand of the powerful police union that 50 senior officers get five extra weeks of vacation to sweeten the accord.

In a letter to council members on June 1, Bradley blasted the proposed vacation provision, applicable to officers of lieutenant rank or below with 30 years or more of service, as an “outrageously excessive” benefit. The letter was obtained Monday by The Times.

The letter went to the council three days after it voted in executive session to approve the vacation offer, reportedly by a 10-3 margin.

The drug-testing program “should move ahead because it is the right thing for our Police Department to do. It should move ahead without being ‘bought’ or ‘traded,’ ” Bradley said.

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The mayor also argued that the vacation benefit “sends absolutely the wrong signal” to taxpayers only weeks after city officials increased fees and cut services to deal with the city’s fiscal crisis.

But Police Protective League President George Aliano said in an interview that the benefit was needed for the union’s support of drug testing for the city’s permanent officers. In 1989, a drug-testing program for newly hired officers was implemented.

“I’m not going to settle without this provision,” Aliano said.

If the city tries to impose a testing program without the union’s consent, the league will go to court to block it, he said.

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“There’s support for testing, but there’s enough officers who are against that it’s not going to be easy to sell to them,” Aliano said. “I needed the vacation benefit to show them we were getting something out of this.”

Aliano also denied Bradley’s suggestion that the benefit would be costly. The extra vacation--which would provide officers with 30-plus years on the force with a total of 9 1/2 weeks of regular paid vacation per year--"won’t result in any raise in taxes and it won’t force the city to go into its reserve fund,” Aliano said.

The extra vacation would induce valuable senior officers to stay on the force, Aliano said.

The union president said he will ask Police Chief Daryl F. Gates to join him in urging Bradley to drop his opposition. If that fails, Aliano said he will seek a council override of the mayor’s veto.

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Councilman Richard Alatorre, chairman of the council’s Police Committee and a supporter of the bonus as an incentive to keep veterans on the force, said: “This is a relatively little-ticket item. It’s insignificant to give up this to get something everybody agrees is needed.”

But Deputy Mayor Mark Fabiani said the mayor is convinced the league will back down because its position is so politically untenable and unsympathetic. Fabiani also scoffed at Aliano’s claims that the bonus is needed to win the average officer’s support for the drug-testing program.

“This is a special benefit for a very few officers,” Fabiani said. “This should not be an issue that hangs up a drug-testing program that will help keep the department clean. It will be very difficult (for the union leadership) to scuttle this agreement on these grounds. It’ll be publicly embarrassing for the union.”

Fabiani predicted that an agreement will be reached with the union that will get the drug-testing program started without significant delay.

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The testing program requires all permanent officers to be tested randomly once each year. Additionally, 30% of the officers will be tested--again, at random--at least a second time each year, Aliano said.

New officers must be tested at least twice during their 18-month probationary period. So far, 4,500 tests have been administered and no officers have tested positive, Aliano said.


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