Union contract would increase LAPD budget by nearly $400 million by 2027, report says

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 08: U.S. Rep. Karen Bass said that as mayor she would move 250 Los Angeles police officers out of desk jobs and into patrols, while ensuring that the department returns to its authorized strength of 9,700 officers. Photographed at the Los Angeles Police Department Headquarters on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
The Los Angeles City Council is set to take up a proposed four-year salary agreement with the union that represents nearly 9,000 officers on Wednesday. (Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Mayor Karen Bass' four-year package of raises and bonuses at the Los Angeles Police Department would add an estimated $384 million to that agency's annual budget by the end of the contract's fourth year, according to figures prepared by the city's top labor negotiator.

City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo said the tentative agreement with the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents police officers, would likely push police spending above $3.6 billion by 2027, up from the $3.2 billion budgeted for the current fiscal year, which began July 1.

Those estimates assume that the department will have just above 9,100 officers by the end of the contract. And they are sure to reignite the debate over LAPD spending in at City Hall, just months after the council signed off on Mayor Karen Bass' plan for hiring hundreds of new officers.

Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez, who has long argued for moving money out of the LAPD and into other services, called the contract financially irresponsible, saying she worries about how the city will pay for it if a recession hits.

Hernandez, who represents part of the Eastside, said she expects the contract's new raises, bonuses and other incentives will consume a combined $1 billion over the life of the agreement, depriving the council of funds to pay for raises for thousands of other city employees.

"I'm very concerned that we're not going to move with equity — that because we put such a huge investment in this contract, other contracts and other city workers will be left behind," she said.

The proposed agreement is part of the mayor's effort to halt the steady decline in staffing underway at the LAPD, which had 9,011 officers earlier this month, down from about 10,000 four years ago. In recent months, Bass has pushed for the hiring of up to 780 officers in the current budget year, plus the recruitment of about 200 retirees on an interim basis.

Council President Paul Krekorian, who sits with Bass on the council's bargaining committee, said the agreement would help the LAPD attract new recruits by ensuring its salaries are competitive.

Read more: LAPD officers would receive raises, higher starting pay under deal struck by Bass, union

"Will there be difficult choices to be made as we go forward? There will be," Krekorian said. "But there will also be very unfortunate consequences if we don't make this kind of investment in public safety."

The tentative agreement heads to the council's three-member personnel committee, which is headed by Councilmember Tim McOsker, who represented the LAPD union for several years as an attorney and registered lobbyist at City Hall.

That panel meets Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. to review the agreement. The full council is set to take up the agreement later in the day.

The vote comes at a time when violent crime is down compared with the same period last year. Homicides dropped by 24% during the reporting period that ended Aug. 12 while robberies have decreased 13%, according to figures reported by the LAPD.

At the same time, the department has seen a spate of police shootings this summer — six over the past month.

Activists have voiced alarm over those incidents, two of which were fatal, with some accusing Bass of "coddling" the department. Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, said the LAPD "shouldn't be rewarded for killing our people."

"It's unfair and it's outrageous that LAPD can simply waltz in, the L.A. Police Protective League can simply walk into the mayor's office and say, 'We want a 13% increase' and it's given to them," she said.

The salary agreement was ratified earlier this month by the members of the Police Protective League, which waged an expensive campaign against Bass during last year's mayoral election. In recent months, however, the union has spoken favorably about Bass' focus on recruitment and retention.

In a statement, the union's board of directors said Tuesday that it is looking to restore the ranks of LAPD officers "responsibly." That goal is shared by "Bass and the overwhelming majority of the City Council," the union said.

"This contract represents a smart investment designed to keep Angelenos safe by providing incentives to retain experienced officers and to recruit qualified candidates to enter the police academy," the statement said.

Bass, in her own statement, said the contract would help to address what she called a crisis over LAPD hiring and retention. Of the 986 police officers who have left the department since mid-2017, 82% were with the department for 10 years or less, according to city budget figures.

The proposed contract would boost the starting pay of officers by nearly 13%, while also providing four raises of 3% over a four-year period. That would push LAPD starting salaries above $86,000 — higher than those in Pasadena, Long Beach and Burbank, but lower than those in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, according to Szabo's report.

To dissuade officers from leaving for other agencies, the agreement would provide retention bonuses much earlier in an officer's career, while providing larger ones to those working at the LAPD for more than a decade.

Those bonuses, combined with the scheduled pay increases, would increase officers' overall wages by 6% this year, 4% in the contract’s second year, 5% in the third and 5% in the fourth, Szabo and the union said.

"By simultaneously increasing starting salaries and adding retention pay for officers with less than ten years of service, the proposed [contract] will provide greater incentive for newly minted officers to remain with LAPD, which will have an immediate impact on recruitment and retention," Szabo wrote in his report.

Those arguments have not persuaded Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez, a former labor organizer who sits on the personnel committee. Soto-Martinez, who opposes the deal, said money is not the reason why no one wants to join the LAPD.

"I think the most honest thing that I've heard about why we're at these LAPD numbers was from an LAPD officer," Soto-Martinez said. "He said to me that 'nobody wants to be a police officer because we have an image problem.'"

Bass called earlier this year for the LAPD to be restored to 9,500 officers by summer 2024. So far, Police Academy classes have not come close to the 60 recruits that would be needed to reach that goal.

Szabo said the city has money in this year's budget to cover the first year of the union contract, which would necessitate an additional $123 million in salary, healthcare and pension costs. Because police hiring has been slow, the LAPD is expected to absorb at least a portion of those costs, he said.

Szabo's four-year estimate of $384 million relied on the assumption that the department would have 9,103 officers by 2027, below the number proposed by Bass in her budget.

The contract's four-year cost would reach an estimated $391 million if the city makes greater progress with its hiring plan, reaching 9,293 officers, Szabo said. That's the amount Bass hopes to hire in the coming year, not including the retirees she hopes to bring back to the LAPD, he said.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.