In another battle between Police Chief Willie L. Williams and the union representing his rank-and-file officers, the Los Angeles Police Protective League plans to file labor grievances today over a new department policy forcing officers to take some overtime in cash rather than time off.
Hank Hernandez, an attorney for the league, said Monday he would file one grievance with the city's employee relations board and another with Williams, for the chief to forward to the Police Commission.
The new policy, which went into effect July 1, limits the amount of compensatory time off for overtime that an officer can take to 40 hours during the next 12 months. After logging 40 hours, officers will be forced to take cash payments for overtime.
Police brass say the policy will put more officers on the streets, but union leaders contend it was formulated without their consultation and would deprive officers of their right to receive time off for their many hours of overtime.
"It's great to have the money," said union President Cliff Ruff, referring to the mandatory cash payments. "But it's also very important to take time off to relax and enjoy life."
Union officials said police, who frequently work double and even triple shifts, sometimes need to take time off just to sleep. "You don't want a fatigued employee with a loaded gun and car responding to calls," Ruff said.
An LAPD spokesman, Cmdr. Tim McBride, defended the policy, which he said was formulated with Mayor Richard Riordan's backing.
"This somewhat unusual measure is being made in the interest of safety to the people of the city in trying to keep as many officers on the street as possible," he said, adding that officers can still use vacation time or compensatory overtime from prior years.
A spokeswoman for Riordan said the mayor backs the overtime policy as it stands.
City Councilman Marvin Braude, chairman of the council's Public Safety Committee, said Williams should be allowed to make the policy changes he thinks are needed.
But another council member on the committee, who asked not to be identified, said the committee needs to examine whether complaints of officer fatigue are valid.
In an informal survey, officers mostly indicated displeasure with the new policy.
"This isn't like a 9-to-5 banker's job," said Sgt. Jerry Burns of the Foothill Division. "The stress level, the time they spend in court, the time they spend in overtime . . . 40 hours over a full year is ridiculous."
The department is worried because officers now have stored more than 1 million hours of uncompensated overtime, McBride said.
Union officials complained that the new policy will force officers to use sick days as time off. The officials also complained that the policy does not extend to Williams' command staff, perpetuating what they see as a double standard.
Ruff said he was rankled that Williams did not consult with the union before issuing the policy statement June 22. Previously, many officers were angered by a recent decision by the City Council to overturn a Police Commission action reprimanding Williams for allegedly lying about free lodging in Las Vegas.