Los Angeles city officials have reached a tentative one-year salary agreement with the police officers’ union that dramatically expands cash payments for overtime while avoiding raises for most workers, according to a source familiar with the proposed pact.
Under the terms of the deal, the vast majority of officers represented by the Police Protective League would receive no bump in salary, said the source, who requested anonymity because the agreement has not yet been ratified by the union’s members. However, pay increases would be given to nearly 1,000 officers who have joined the department since 2009, the year salaries for incoming officers were cut 20%.
Lower pay for incoming officers helped the city recover from the recession, but seriously hampered the LAPD’s ability to recruit and retain young officers. The tentative agreement would raise the salaries of its newer officers to the level of their better-paid counterparts in the LAPD. Beginning in January, it would also hike starting salaries from $49,924 a year to $57,420, the source said.
Those two provisions of the deal would add between $7 million and $8 million in costs this year, according to budget analysts. Mayor Eric Garcetti declined to discuss the details of the tentative accord, but described it as “fiscally responsible.” Council President Herb Wesson said the proposal would provide “a major boost to recruitment, retention and morale.”
Police union officials Wednesday said they were disappointed that aspects of the agreement were reported in the media before the union had a chance to present the proposal to its members. “While small bits of information about the contract were leaked by City Hall to the media, the information is incomplete and misleading,” said union board President Tyler Izen in a statement. He did not elaborate or provide specifics on the pending deal.
The agreement now heads to the union’s roughly 9,900 members for a ratification vote. Although the lack of raises could become a contentious point among rank-and-file officers, the agreement calls for the city to reinstate much of the cash the LAPD previously relied on to pay its officers for overtime, before budget cuts eliminated it.
Under the proposed contract, the city would provide up to $70 million in overtime payments over a 12-month period, up from the $30 million in this year’s budget, according to the source. That would represent a major change from the last five years, which saw LAPD officers rack up hundreds of thousands of overtime hours, only to have payment postponed years into the future. Deferred overtime hours must be paid when an officer retires, typically at a much higher salary.
Budget officials have grown increasingly concerned over the LAPD’s bank of unpaid overtime obligations, which has grown from around $27 million in 2007 to $122 million this year. City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana recommended earlier this year that the council move away from its reliance on unpaid overtime, comparing the practice to spending on a credit card.
A return to a pay-as-you-go approach would also be welcomed by LAPD brass, who have forced hundreds of officers to take time off each month in an effort to rein in the growth of unpaid overtime. With so many officers unavailable, commanders have struggled to fill patrol shifts.
“This tentative agreement will allow me to put hundreds more police officers on the street to meet the needs of our city,” Police Chief Charlie Beck said. “It also increases our ability to hire and retain the best possible officers.”
It was not clear why the agreement was limited to one year. Last fall, the union that represents most Department of Water and Power workers approved a contract that runs three years without raises, followed by a 2% pay hike in 2016.
Santana, the top budget official, has urged lawmakers to hold off on raises as part of a larger strategy to eliminate a structural budget deficit by 2018.