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Riordan Reconsiders LAPD Raises : Contracts: Angry mayor reacts to police union billboards spotlighting the threat of crime. Labor leaders say the ads, which show a carjacking, will stay up.

March 25, 1994|MARC LACEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Angered by a billboard campaign intended to frighten the public into supporting the Los Angeles police union, Mayor Richard Riordan on Thursday backed off from his plan to offer a salary increase for officers and canceled upcoming meetings with city negotiators.

Riordan pledged last week to present a new contract proposal at a negotiating session scheduled for today. But during a meeting with key council members Thursday, Riordan's chief of staff said the mayor had decided to reconsider the offer.

"The mayor is not going to make any proposal right now," chief of staff Bill McCarley said. "He is very disappointed with the billboards and other things."

Council President John Ferraro, Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky and Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg--who are members of the city's negotiating committee--decided not to make an offer to the Police Protective League until Riordan reconvenes the group. The mayor canceled a committee meeting scheduled for next week.

A negotiating session is still set for this morning but it is expected to be brief because city officials said they have nothing to offer to the league.

The 21 billboards, which went up Tuesday, show a woman being carjacked at gunpoint. "Warning: This Can Be You Without the Police Dept.," the ads read.

The billboards are part of a campaign to pressure the city into accepting union demands. Brochures highlighting Los Angeles' crime rates were sent to tourist officials earlier in the month and a videotape carrying a similar theme is being prepared for possible international distribution.

League officials have said the campaign is designed to hurt the city's tourism industry and point out the essential services provided by police. They had hoped the strategy would lead to a quick settlement with the city, but the tactic appears to have backfired.

The union, digging in its heels, said the billboards will stay up despite Riordan's change of heart. At the same time, union officials said the video campaign will go forward only if approved at membership meetings next week.

The league represents about 7,000 officers ranked lieutenant and below.

"This is a continuation of the bad faith bargaining that the police officers have had to endure for close to two years," union President Danny Staggs said. "To put out a press release announcing an offer and then not come through with it shows some of the poorest leadership I've seen in a long time."

City officials said they withdrew the offer because of concern that the union's protests might adversely affect the city treasury.

"The Police Protective League has a right to put up any billboard it wants, but they have proposed a campaign to hurt the city treasury," Yaroslavsky said. "It is only prudent to see what the impact of that campaign is on the treasury before moving ahead."

But there was also outrage at the billboards themselves, especially because they were erected after Riordan had announced that he planned to offer the officers a raise, the first such offer in the nearly two years of negotiations.

"The mayor has always been supportive of police and public safety but he is not going to respond to this kind of tactic," McCarley said.

After Riordan announced last Friday that he would make a raise offer, union members considered canceling the billboards. But they said they went ahead Tuesday morning because Riordan coupled his proposed raise with work rule changes that the union opposes.

Riordan's proposal--which sources said called for a raise of roughly 6% over two years--also called for changes in the job classifications for detectives that would give Chief Willie L. Williams more discretion to transfer officers.

The union says the changes could return negotiations to square one.

Councilman Joel Wachs, a supporter of the union, criticized the city action. "This is becoming childish now," he said. "The city has stalled long enough. Police morale is at its lowest point. They deserve a contract."

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