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City, Police Near Accord on Raises

Villaraigosa hints at a three-year pact bumping up LAPD pay by more than 10%. Bratton says the deal would help him recruit more officers.

April 27, 2006|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles police officers would see their pay increase by more than 10% during the next three years under a contract offer made by city officials, who said Wednesday that an agreement is close.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa would not discuss details, but hinted at the offer in addressing more than 200 police officers from the Southeast Division during an inspection at the Police Academy.

"I think you will be hearing from the Police Protective League soon," he said. "It's very important that we not just say we support you, but that we do as much as we can to compensate you well."

The mayor is chairman of the city's Executive Employee Relations Committee, which met Tuesday to finalize an offer to the police union.

An agreement with the city's police union would be welcome news for the mayor, who last week submitted his proposed budget to the City Council and who is pressing for an increase in trash fees to pay for expansion of the city's police force.

It also might help dampen expectations that other public employee unions would receive higher wage hikes -- expectations raised by a whopping package given to workers at the Department of Water and Power and sought by other unions in the months since that deal was cut.

City Hall sources said the city and police union are close to agreement on a contract that would give the city's 9,200 police officers a 3% pay raise July 1, a 3.5% increase July 1, 2007, and a 3.75% boost a year later.

"From what I have been told, they are close," said Police Chief William J. Bratton, who stood next to the mayor during the academy speech Wednesday.

Bratton said a good contract would make his job easier.

"From a selfish standpoint: The happier the cops are, the better, and if they get the deserved pay raise, it will make it easier for me in recruiting because it will make us competitive," Bratton said.

The city has been unable to attract enough police candidates to meet its hiring goals this year, and department officials say they are having trouble competing with law enforcement agencies that pay higher salaries.

The mayor's just-released budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning July 1 calls for the police force to expand by 135 officers.

But Villaraigosa told the police officers Wednesday that even if the city is able to add 1,000 new officers over the next five years, Los Angeles still would have fewer officers per capita than other major cities, including Chicago.

A police union representative declined to comment on the talks.

"As far as I know, the league is still at the table, and whatever they do is under a blanket of confidentiality," union spokeswoman Jude Schneider said.

The city also is negotiating a new contract for its 3,400 firefighters.

Reaching agreement with the police and firefighter unions would take a lot of the pressure off the mayor, said political scientist Jaime Regalado, director of the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State L.A.

"It's very important. It would give him some cover," Regalado said, noting that city architects and engineers have been publicly pressuring Villaraigosa for the same raises -- at least 19% over five years -- that the quasi-autonomous DWP recently awarded its union employees.

"If he gets the firefighters and protective league settled, it takes much of the thunder away from the engineers and architects."

Typically, the police and firefighters receive bigger pay raises than most other city workers. For the last three years, the public safety workers received raises of 2%, 3% and 4%, while blue-collar city workers received a total of 6.25% over three years in a contract that expires next year.

The mayor's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year includes $55 million more for police salaries than this year's budget, although some of that would go toward paying for additional officers.

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