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Negotiators OK Tentative LAPD Pact

May 13, 1994|JAMES RAINEY and MARC LACEY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

In a major breakthrough in a long and contentious labor dispute, negotiators for the city of Los Angeles and the police union reached agreement Thursday on a tentative contract that will go before the City Council for approval this morning.

More than 7,500 officers will get a 3% raise July 1 and another 3% increase in 1995 if the full City Council approves the tentative pact. The Police Protective League has scheduled a ratification vote for Thursday on the contract.

Under the tentative agreement, police officers will not get bonuses for working patrol duty. The city had fought for such a provision, noting that the Christopher Commission said extra pay would help refocus the Police Department's attention on its basic street patrols. But the union had opposed the bonuses, saying they would divide patrol officers from their peers and reduce the amount of money available for departmentwide raises.

The city also won an agreement that is expected to streamline the ranks of sergeants and detectives by mid-1995, so that Police Chief Willie L. Williams can more easily reassign and transfer employees.

Williams had said the work rule changes, which will be hashed out over the next year, will help him run the department more efficiently. The police union said the simplification of ranks would reduce professionalism and expertise among detectives by allowing supervisors to indiscriminately shift them to other assignments.

The Police Protective League's board of directors also agreed to give up its fight for retroactive raises for the nearly two years the union has gone without a raise.

"It's not a great contract, but it's a fair contract," league President Danny Staggs said. "I believe . . . we can put this episode behind us. It's been some of the darkest times in recent history for the LAPD."

"We're very close now," said council President John Ferraro, one of the members of the committee that recommended approval of the pact Thursday. "I'm optimistic, but you never know until the final vote."

A visit by council members Jackie Goldberg and Zev Yaroslavsky to Police Protective League headquarters Tuesday was the key to breaking the impasse, with the two lawmakers persuading the union's board that the city did not have more to give, union officials said.

But as each side predicted a settlement, each also said it had come out on top.

A city source said the league substantially changed its position, backing off from its demand for the same 9% raise over three years that workers at the Department of Water and Power received.

But the league said it moved the city from its initial refusal of any pay raise and postponed the restructuring in the detective ranks.

Stretching back more than two years, the labor dispute had grown divisive at times. Frustrated officers marched on City Hall with picket signs, staged a sickout until a judge declared the tactic illegal and erected carjacking billboards aimed at showing the public how essential the police are to reducing crime.

Angered by the ominous billboards, especially after the recent carjacking of two Japanese students, Mayor Richard Riordan temporarily backed off of his offer of a salary increase and canceled upcoming negotiating sessions.

After a brief standoff, the 21 billboards came down and the sessions continued. The union continued to reserve the space, however, in case it needed the ads as a pressure tactic again. The union also held another negotiating card--a video it threatened to release to tourism officials portraying the city as a haven for criminals.

Despite the fierce clashes, union officials said the hard-nosed negotiating was essential.

"The billboards brought the frustration of the officers to the forefront of the public and, certainly, the politicians," said Geoffrey Garfield, the union's communications director. "It demonstrated the intensity of the frustration."

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