LAPD pay raises called ‘irresponsible’

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES  — The City Council approved a four-year contract with the union representing Los Angeles Police Department officers, detectives and lieutenants Aug. 23, with a series of bonuses and pay raises intended to address issues of retention and recruitment.

The council voted 12-3 to approve the deal, which also includes increased health care benefits and patrol incentives. Mayor Karen Bass and members of the Los Angeles Police Protective League approved the deal earlier this month.

It needed support from the council before it could be finalized.

“Our police department, just like other major city police departments, is enduring a hiring and retention crisis,” Bass said in a statement following the vote. “Around the same time that we struck a tentative agreement, the LAPD sworn force dipped below 9,000 for the first time since 2002. I want to thank the leaders of the City Council for supporting this action and I look forward to working together to ensure that Angelenos are safe.”

Council members Nithya Raman, Eunisses Hernandez and Hugo Soto-Martinez voted against the contract, calling the deal “irresponsible.”

Hernandez said the deal came at a time when several city unions are still in contract negotiations, and said the city already allocates a quarter of its general fund to the LAPD.

“Our budget is a zero sum game,” she said. “When we allocate so much of our city dollars to just one department we starve all of our other departments from the money, personnel and resources that they need to serve Angelenos,” she said.

Raman said the recruitment and retention issues are part of a national trend.

“The vision we need to be working toward … is that when someone shows up when you call for help, it’s the right person for whatever issue you’re facing,” Raman said. “I fear this contract with its enormous fiscal impact on the city makes us less capable of doing that.”

But Councilwoman Traci Park called the contract “necessary” to address recruitment and retention of officers.

“This contract demonstrates a commitment to our police officers,” Park said. “That’s long overdue, and it sends a message that Los Angeles takes public safety seriously. We’re not just going to put up with crime, and it means that we actually care about the men and women who work hard everyday to keep us safe.”

Recognizing that the contract is “a lot of money,” Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who chairs the budget committee, shared Park’s sentiments and added there are “smart things” in the contract.

The issue prompted a long and loud public comment session in the council chambers, with many Angelenos opposing the contract while a few speakers urged the council to increase the salaries of officers.

Melina Abdullah, the leader of the Los Angeles Chapter of Black Lives Matter, said it was “shameful” that many of the council members voted for the contract.

“[It] will cost the city a billion dollars to start and cement in hundreds of millions of dollars of new spending on police who do not keep our community safe,” Abdullah said.

She previously argued that the department’s issues with recruitment stem from the perception of the public. According to Abdullah, people see “racial bias, misogyny within your own department, alcohol abuse, careless and harmful handling of equipment, especially guns, and not being truthful.”

“These are things that affect people’s perception of what LAPD is, and it does affect the ability to recruit. Young people don’t want to be violence workers,” she said.

According to Bass’ office, the LAPD is expected to lose hundreds more officers in the coming year due to retirements and resignations. Since 2017, the LAPD has lost more than 430 officers in their first year and a half of duty. A significant amount of officers join other agencies before serving for 10 years.

Matt Szabo, city administrative officer, confirmed that the cumulative cost of the contract will be $994 million.

Under the contract, starting pay for a new recruit will begin at $86,193, a 12.6% increase from the current starting salary of $74,020. Additionally, the deal will also provide four raises of 3% over the four years.

Retention bonuses combined with scheduled pay increases will increase officers’ overall wages by 6% raise in year one, a 4% raise in year two, a 5% raise in year three and a 5% raise in year four.

New officers from the Police Academy who remain with the LAPD for at least three years will earn $15,000 in bonuses, while officers who transfer to the department from other agencies and stay for at least three years will earn $20,000 in bonuses.

By 2027, starting salary for new recruits will hit $94,000.

Prior to the full council vote, the three-member Personnel, Audits and Hiring Committee supported the deal in a 2-1 vote. Soto-Martinez, who sits on the committee, was the lone “no” vote.

Soto-Martinez expressed his frustration with the amount of bonuses officers would receive under the contract and how much it would cost the city and taxpayers. The councilman also noted the contract did not include sunset clauses for some of the bonuses.

Noting that 22 departments have higher vacancy rates than the LAPD, including sanitation, street services, youth development and work development, Soto-Martinez asked Szabo whether the contract would require cutting or limiting spending in other departments.

Szabo said the budget is one spending plan approved by the mayor and council, a plan that is evaluated and can be reassessed to spend “more in certain areas based on the priorities of the body.”

“Sometimes cuts will be made and then you’ll have the opportunity to decide how we make those cuts,” he added. “We have to make cuts if revenue does not come in as projected.”

LAPD Chief Michel Moore said during the Police Commission’s Aug. 22 meeting that the department’s personnel strength stands at 9,011 officers, while its civilian force stands at 2,621.

Moore said recruitment issues have affected the department’s ability to meet challenges with crime, such as a spike in organized retail theft, property crimes and assaults with deadly weapons.

He acknowledged that having 1,000 fewer officers has limited the department’s response to calls for service and affected public engagement.

“It is critically important that before the City Council is a multi-year contract proposal for our rank-and-file and it is my hope that it enjoys the council’s support because I believe it is a significant step that will help us attract both new recruits as well as retain a very professional workforce,” Moore said.

But Abdullah, one of Moore’s biggest critics, disagreed with the chief.

“We want to say this is the greatest law enforcement agency in the nation. No, it is not,” Abdullah told the commissioners during public comment Aug. 22. “It’s the one that has the most killings of citizens.”

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City Council approves pay raises for LAPD officers

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Melina Abdullah speaks outside Los Angeles Police headquarters Aug. 22 in opposition to proposed pay increases for Los Angeles police officers. Abdullah called the raises ‘hundreds of millions of dollars of new spending on police who do not keep our community safe.’

Photo by Lorenzo Gomez

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