San Francisco police, firefighters consider skipping raises

The pressure is on The City’s police and firefighters unions to again defer already approved raises in order to help close San Francisco’s budget deficit.

On Wednesday, the heads of the two public safety unions — Gary Delagnes for police and Tom O’Connor for fire — met with Mayor Ed Lee’s chief of staff to discuss the givebacks. The request from the Mayor’s Office comes as The City faces a projected $283 million budget deficit.

Shortly after the meeting with the Mayor’s Office, new police Chief Greg Suhr held a closed three-hour introductory meeting with the Police Officers Association in which he suggested that rank-and-file police officers would be expected to come up with a way to shrink a $10 million hole in the police budget.

“I told them that I have a budget deficit to close and that I would appreciate you guys thinking about getting that done,” Suhr told The San Francisco Examiner after he spoke to POA members on Wednesday.

That meeting came a day after Suhr announced that cuts to the top-ranking echelon of the department would result in more than $1 million in savings to The City’s general fund. The cut to the top was meant as a message to the rank-and-file that Suhr was leading by example.

When Suhr was sworn in as the new chief in April, many saw the pick as the best way to convince the Police Officers Association to open up its contract for a fourth time to defer raises that were promised under the administration of Mayor Gavin Newsom.

San Francisco police are scheduled to receive $14.5 million in raises in the upcoming fiscal year, and the Fire Department is also scheduled for a raise that has already been deferred in previous lean years.

Police union officials are still resisting the changes despite the pressure. The City’s revenue stream has been improving in the past few months and the city deficit, pegged at $380 million only months ago, has been shrinking.

Kevin Martin, vice president of the POA, said the union would consider whether they will put a proposal to a vote by next week, adding that the pick of Suhr as police chief has made the decision more palatable.

“He did not ask us to give up our raises,” Martin said of Suhr. “But he did ask us to open our minds.”

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