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Police Jam Council in Jobs Impasse


Usually only one or two police officers come to the Arcadia City Council meetings on alternate Tuesdays, but in recent weeks they have been crowding in, thanks to an impasse between the city and police officer's association over contract talks.

Members of the Arcadia Police Relief Assn., which represents more than a third of department's 127 officers, have been working without a contract since the first of the month. Although officers are not taking to the picket lines, they and their families have packed the council chamber to spread the word about the labor dispute.

The council, after months of contract talks, has unanimously opposed the police association's proposals calling for a workweek made up of three 12-hour days instead of the usual five-day, 40-hour week. The council also has rejected pay adjustments that would amount to a 1.5% pay increase. The association, which is also seeking payment for time spent on-call, has refused to change its offer.

"The (three-day week) would put more police officers on the streets during peak hours to provide better service to the public," police negotiator Bruce Smith said.

Association officials point to eight other cities, including Pasadena, that have adopted the new schedule.

But Arcadia council members said they do not believe the community would benefit from the change in hours because officers would be more fatigued.

"This 3-12 schedule its not on the cards," veteran Councilman Dennis A. Lojeski said. "I and other council members are really concerned about the liability issue."

Lojeski said he does not want to let Arcadia be used for a legal test case challenging the judgment of an officer who worked the new schedule. "I don't want an officer with a high-powered weapon in his hand or a high-powered car under his foot in the 12th hour of his three-day shift," he said.

City Council members said any assessment of such a change should also be made by a new police chief. Chief Neil Johnson retires Dec. 30.

City Manager Bill Kelly said he and Johnson were willing to experiment with the 3-12 scheme but the council rejected it.

As to the benefits package worth 1.5%, council members said the demand comes at a time when the city simply cannot afford any increase for officers who are among the valley's most highly paid.

"This isn't the time for this kind of request," Lojeski said. "I am proud of the fact we've given a 25.3% increase to officers in the last three years."

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