LAPD union leaders cut deal to avoid layoffs, delaying pay increases until 2023
The union that represents Los Angeles police officers has reached a tentative deal to postpone a pair of raises for its members, averting layoffs for as many as 355 officers at a time when homicides and shooting incidents are steadily rising.
Officials with the Los Angeles Police Protective League agreed to delay a pair of scheduled increases — 3% in January 2022 and an additional 1.5% in June 2022 — until 2023, Mayor Eric Garcetti and union representatives said Tuesday.
In exchange, Garcetti and the City Council would drop plans for eliminating hundreds of filled police officer positions, part of the city’s strategy for closing an estimated $675-million budget shortfall by June 30.
The deal, which must be ratified by the union’s members, represents a major breakthrough for city leaders, who struggled to get league board members to come to the bargaining table to discuss the financial crisis, which was sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying business shutdowns.
Tuesday’s announcement also marks a major shift in direction for the union, which had repeatedly directed its anger at city leaders in recent months over LAPD budget cuts — and had dismissed the idea of delaying raises.
In a statement, Craig Lally, president of the union, said his board of directors had unanimously recommended the proposal to its members, saying it would provide certainty during a “disastrous economic downturn.”
“Officers have continued to protect our residents during these very trying and dangerous times and deserve to be treated fairly and have their sacrifices recognized,” Lally said. “We believe this agreement does that.”
The agreement, if approved, would not help the city eliminate this year’s budget gap. But it would help the mayor and council get a jump on 2021-22, when another huge budget deficit is expected to open up, posing a threat to city services.
Under the proposal, the delay in officer raises would cut costs by $26 million in 2021-22 and by $42 million the following year, Garcetti aides said.
Rank-and-file officers would delay two raises — a combined 4.5% — until January 2023, when city officials are hoping the region’s economy will have improved. City leaders, in turn, would promise to pay officers a minimum of $70 million in cash overtime in each of the contract’s next three years.
The city’s promise not to lay off police officers would run through June 30, the mayor’s office said.
“Our police officers do heroic work to keep Angelenos safe, and this year they have been asked to do more with less,” Garcetti said in a statement. “I am pleased that we have reached a tentative deal that prevents sworn layoffs and provides the savings necessary to protect critical city services.”
The tentative deal signals a break from the acrimony that has played out between union leaders and City Hall since last summer, when protesters flooded streets to express their outrage over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The council responded to those protests by cutting the LAPD budget by $150 million.
Things got so bad between the two sides that, at one point, Lally spurned a written request to meet to discuss the financial crisis, writing to city leaders, “We wish you luck.” In his letter, Lally noted that the council had already cut the department’s budget, reduced the size of the force by 250 officers and delivered deep cuts to LAPD overtime.
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said any future protesters disrupting COVID-19 vaccinations at Dodger Stadium would be swiftly arrested.
The union also purchased billboard space that implied that council members have no plan for addressing a spike in homicides and shootings.
Last month, city officials prepared a layoff list that would have resulted in the elimination of specialized police units assigned to Venice, Hollywood and neighborhoods around USC. Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents Brentwood and other neighborhoods, recently called the LAPD union a threat to the city, saying the group’s refusal to offer concessions would result in fewer neighborhood patrols.
While the two sides traded accusations, homicides rose sharply last year, reaching their highest point in more than a decade. This year, Los Angeles had 34 killings as of Jan. 23, up from 15 during the same period in 2019, according to LAPD figures.
Two men were shot Monday at a homeless encampment near the 110 Freeway at Avenue 60, one of them fatally. A week earlier, a father and daughter were shot inside their car on Avenue 50 in Highland Park. The daughter survived, but her 68-year-old father was killed.
Whether the union’s membership will ratify the deal is unclear. In December, rank-and-file officers soundly rejected a proposal to raise up to $10 million for a political war chest that would help the union’s favored candidates in 2022.
In recent weeks, Garcetti and council members had been hoping to persuade the LAPD union to forfeit or delay a 3.25% pay increase, which went into effect last month. The union declined, saying its counterparts at the fire department received a similar increase in July 2020.
LAPD union leaders were more open, however, to a delay in raises scheduled for 2022. Other city employees, including the firefighter union, have already reached deals with the city to push back pay increases that had been scheduled for that year.
The deal, if approved, will extend the union’s contract until summer 2024. In an email to rank-and-file officers, union leaders said the extension would keep them from having to go back to the bargaining table next year, with “all of the uncertainty and take-aways that would entail.”
Activists have become increasingly vocal in urging city leaders to defund the LAPD or even abolish the department outright. Some who favor those efforts expressed disappointment with the deal points announced Tuesday.
Bill Przylucki, executive director of advocacy group Ground Game L.A., said the budget crisis offered Garcetti and the council the opportunity to take a fresh look at how much the city spends on policing. Had they engaged in that idea, he said, they could have explored ways of spending less on law enforcement and more on critical services to help Angelenos, such as rental assistance and mental health counseling.
“I think we missed an opportunity to do something a lot better,” he said.
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