LAPD officers protest at City Hall over contract negotiations

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Members of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union for the LAPD, listen as fellow members address the council. ANIBAL ORTIZ, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Wearing white union T-shirts, some 200 Los Angeles Police Department officers filed two-by-two into Los Angeles City Hall Tuesday to protest City Council’s contract offer that does not include a cost of living increase.

Currently, LAPD officers are working on an expired contract while negotiations continue between the city and the union, the Los Angeles Police Protective League. In the second week of July, nearly 6,000 officers voted against approving the offer which included starting pay increases for newly-hired officers.

“LAPD officers simply do not feel supported either by the department or the city,” said Tyler Izen, president of the union, calling the lack of a cost of living a “slap in the face.”

Union officials said they met 16 times with members to brief them on the deal. Some of the factors contributing to the deal’s rejection was a lack of change to the department’s disciplinary system and not restoring cash overtime.

Union leaders and off-duty officers complained that their salaries aren’t competitive, pushing established and potential officers officers to other departments ty which pay more. One figure that was frequently repeated: LAPD’s starting pay is the 14th best-paid among police departments within about an hour of Los Angeles, according to statistics from the union.

“When it comes to salaries, we are not in the same ballpark as the cities in the state,” Officer Terry Turner said.

Because the union’s contract wasn’t on the council agenda, councilmen were prohibited from directly responding.

Councilman Mitch Englander acknowledged a morale problem after the meeting and said there is genuine concern that new hires get paid enough to support their families – they currently make under $50,000 to start, although the new contract would increase starting wages to $56,900.

“We support that issue but we’ve got to be just very, very careful and fiscally prudent as we start slowly out of this recession,” Englander said.

Budget officers project that the city will get out of debt within the next four years, but that requires holding city salaries steady. Meanwhile, the police union and other city unions stress that they made enough voluntary concessions to support the city’s finances during the recession.

The rank and file were patient in the at-capacity council chambers, only breaking out in raucous applause once during the meeting, when a gadfly in a Batman costume ignored a rule of decorum and suggested they get higher wages.

Police officers want to work with the city and don’t see the council or mayor as adversaries, said East L.A. resident Craig Marquez, a highly decorated detective who’s been invited to the White House as one of the nation’s Top Cops.

Marquez asked the council to think about cost of living increases as “cost of daycare increases,” since he takes care of his 16-year-old daughter and his 10-year-old, special-needs son.

He works a nine-hour shift, thanks to an accommodating captain, but it’s hard finding a daycare center that opens at 5:30 a.m. and cares for those with special needs, he said. His family plays a crucial role helping him when emergencies or special events come up.

“A cost of living adjustment isn’t huge,” Marquez said, but it helps him take on rising daycare costs, “the costs that come up when cars break down, when the cost of goods goes up.”

Izen and Englander said negotiations are expected to continue.

It’s been a tough couple of days for the city’s relationship with city unions. On Monday, the city lost a dispute with the a coalition of city unions that was arguing the city had no right to establish a second tier of pension benefits for new hires, as the city did in 2012. The ruling could cost the city around $4 billion.

Staff writer Jenna Chandler contributed to this report.

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