San Francisco Police officers have voted to approve a proposed contract extension that includes postponed raises and new raises. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Police union contract moves forward as officers agree to delayed raises

San Francisco police officers have overwhelmingly voted to support a proposed contract agreement that would delay their scheduled pay raises in an attempt to avoid potential layoffs during the coronavirus-driven economic downturn.

Members of the San Francisco Police Officers Association approved the tentative agreement to extend and modify the current police contract with 1,237 votes in favor and 401 in opposition, according to an internal tally released Monday and obtained by the San Francisco Examiner.

The proposal, which would also give officers new raises down the road, will now have to clear the Board of Supervisors.

SFPOA President Montoya called the “overwhelming vote” a “testament to the character and sacrifice of the San Francisco police officers who continue to serve our residents in very difficult conditions.”

The SFPOA agreed to negotiate over the contract at the request of city officials who warned in early July that as many as 300 officers could be laid off if previously scheduled raises were not delayed amid a $1.7 billion budget deficit.

Under the proposal, officers would have to wait until June 2022 to begin receiving a previously negotiated 3 percent wage increase that was already delayed until next year by the pandemic.

Seemingly in exchange for the delay, officers would get an additional 6 percent pay hike over a two-year period that is expected to begin in January 2022, the Examiner first reported last Wednesday.

The agreement was reached amid a national conversation around the role of police unions and collective bargaining in delaying police reform.

Here in San Francisco, the union has been criticized for using a process known as “meet and confer” to water down policies passed by the Police Commission. The Department of Human Resources tried but failed to shorten that process during contract negotiations in 2018.

The most recent deal appears to have been negotiated without any community input, to the dismay of former ACLU attorney and advocate John Crew, who has called for The City to inject police reform provisions into the contract.

After Crew raised an alarm about the proposal at the Police Commission meeting last Wednesday evening, Commissioner Cindy Elias and Vice President Damali Taylor suggested they were unaware of the contract negotiations.

“I had no idea that that was happening,” Elias said.

Elias called for a hearing on the proposal to “at least afford the community the opportunity to know what’s going on as well as myself and other commissioners.”

“I’m also very eager to know what is going on,” Taylor said. “I will want to hear about this at a future commission hearing.”

Crew suggested that the Police Commission recommend to the Board of Supervisors whether to approve the agreement. He noted that the current contract would not otherwise expire until next year.

“There is no reason to rush into a quick sweetheart deal with them and get nothing in return,” Crew said.

Crew is not alone in his call for more transparency.

Just this month, a group of law professors, retired judges and a police union attorney published an article in UC Berkeley’s California Law Review proposing that cities hold a public hearing “before” contract negotiations begin with police unions.

“These reforms will enable the public to know the possible or likely terms of a collective bargaining agreement before such an agreement is negotiated or signed,” the article reads. “This information will aid the public in holding elected and appointed officials accountable for the police contracts they negotiate. It will also provide the public the opportunity to ensure that the contracts serve the common good.”

A new report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors also recognized that police contracts are more than just salary negotiations.

“They cover the expected areas—hours, wages, benefits—but many have grown to include substantial barriers to basic accountability,” the report reads. “Some provisions look innocuous on their face, but they can severely impair a department’s legitimate need to investigate allegations of police officer misconduct and hold officers accountable.”

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