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SF police union prefers contract negotiations under interim Mayor Farrell

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Mayor Mark Farrell today came out in support of a San Francisco Police Officers Association ballot measure creating a Taser policy for city police, despite the opposition of Police Chief Bill Scott. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The San Francisco police union is counting on the recent appointment of interim Mayor Mark Farrell to change the tenor of ongoing labor negotiations with city officials over pay raises for police.

Proposed wage hikes from the Department of Human Resources are falling short of the expectations of the San Francisco Police Officers Association. But SFPOA President Martin Halloran suggested that, under Farrell, the union could negotiate a more favorable deal for officers.

“Mark Farrell is known to support law enforcement,” Halloran said in the February edition of the SFPOA Journal. “Mark Farrell being appointed interim mayor may change the dynamics of the current contract negotiations between The City and the SFPOA.”

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Since September, the SFPOA has been seeking a new labor agreement with The City to replace a 10-year-old contract for the San Francisco Police Department that expires at the end of June.

The Board of Supervisors gave Farrell power to oversee the negotiations last Tuesday when it ousted London Breed from the top job in San Francisco.

SFPOA Vice President Tony Montoya summed up the negotiations in the Journal.

“Without some drastic changes in proposals from The City, the SFPD is poised to not only have a tremendous recruiting and retention problem in the very near future, but there potentially could be a huge number of active members seeking early retirement,” Montoya said.

The police union and a spokesperson for the Department of Human Resources would not say what wage increases are on the table. But Nathan Ballard, a spokesperson for the SFPOA, said the union is “seeking compensation that is comparable to other police departments in the Bay Area — no more, no less.”

A statement from the Mayor’s Press Office said Farrell has been briefed on the negotiations.

“As always, the City does not negotiate in the press and will work directly with our labor partners to do what is best for employees, our residents and the long-term economic health of The City,” the statement reads.

As negotiations continue, community activists are calling on The City to require the SFPOA to get onboard with police reform in exchange for pay increases under the labor agreement. John Crew, a former attorney with the ACLU, wants their cooperation written into the new contract.

“The idea that we would treat the negotiation with the SFPOA as though it’s only a matter of what we pay police officers, without setting expectations for what the SFPOA will do or not do in return, is a recipe for the repeat of the last 10-and-a-half years under the last contract,” Crew said.

Crew cited a number of times where he said the police union has pushed back against police reform and the community policing recommendations of the U.S. Department Of Justice, which reviewed the SFPD after the fatal shooting of Mario Woods in 2015.

Crew said the contract could require the SFPOA to drop the lawsuit it filed against San Francisco in 2016 after the Police Commission passed a new use-of-force policy preventing officers from firing at moving vehicles.

Ballard said “Crew is not a party to the negotiations.”

“The union is already supportive of the Obama DOJ’s recommendations,” Ballard said.

Crew has joined a coalition of community groups who view labor negotiations as leverage to force the SFPOA into supporting police reform. The groups include PolicyLink, Faith in Action Bay Area, PICO California and the Center American Resource Center of San Francisco.

Notable members include Anand Subramanian of PolicyLink, who led a blue ribbon panel on bias in the SFPD in 2016, and Father Richard Smith of St. John the Evangelist and Faith in Action Bay Area. Smith organized against the controversial Mission District police shooting of Amilcar Perez Lopez in 2015.

“Our basic message is unless this becomes a fair contract that reflects the values of our community, then it should not be approved by the supervisors,” Smith said.

“[Reforms] are going to go nowhere unless the POA is willing to get onboard, which means they’ve got to drop this Trump line approach to so many issues,” Smith said.

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