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LA City Council OKs nearly $1 billion in police raises and bonuses

The LA City Council voted Wednesday to approve a near-$1 billion package of raises and bonuses designed to improve recruiting and retention of LAPD officers, after acknowledging the new contract could limit the city’s ability to fund other core services.

In a 12-to-3 vote, the council agreed to a near-13% increase in starting pay for new officers, 12% cost of living increases over four years, and a variety of bonuses and incentives that city officials said they hoped would slow the pace of existing officers’ decisions to retire, resign, or transfer to other agencies.

“Our police department, just like other major city police departments, is enduring a hiring and retention crisis,” Mayor Karen Bass emailed reporters in a statement.

“I want to thank the leaders of the City Council for supporting this action and I look forward to working together to ensure that Angelenos are safe,” the statement said.

An analysis provided to the council showed the new raises and bonuses, above the already-approved $3 billion LAPD budget, would cost an extra $123 million during this fiscal year.

It would increase another $75 million in 2024-2025, another $91 million in 2025-2026 and another $95 million in 2026-2027.

Each increase is on top of the previous year’s, bringing the total impact to about $994 million at the end of the fourth year, not including overtime pay.

“It is unclear exactly how the city will pay for nearly $1 billion dollars in cumulative salary increases,” Councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez, one of the three “no”‘ votes, said before the council meeting Wednesday.

“If we approve the contract that’s coming before us today, I fear that the city is committing to another four years where we cannot deliver on the most basic municipal services that our constituents need, things like keeping the lights on, picking up trash, paving the roads, let alone serving our most vulnerable population,” she said.

Hernandez was the only council member to vote no on the overall city budget earlier this summer, citing the significant increase to police spending.

Council members Hugo Soto-Martinez and Nithya Raman also voted against the police contract, and all three said the money would be better spent on housing, social services and creating a new crisis response system for mental health and other non-violent emergencies.

During the council meeting, the city’s chief administrative officer, Matthew Szabo, who negotiated the with the officers’ union, acknowledged the spending on police could limit the city’s ability to pay for other employees’ raises or programs.

“This contract represents an investment in LAPD in a significant way,” Szabo said.

“It represents a very substantial financial commitment to recruiting officers and retaining officers, and, as with any major financial commitment, it will create choices in the future, and so, we’re making choices with this contract … that will be part of the competition for scarce resources,” he said.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore posted a short message on social media praising the agreement.

“We cannot put a price on public safety,” the message said.

“A competitive contract is one of the steps needed to keep our communities safe through retaining our current personnel, and attracting much needed new hires,” it said.

Mayor Bass has said she wants to expand the size of the LAPD to 9,500 officers. At the end of June, the department had just under 9,000 officers, the lowest level in at least a decade.

The city reported earlier this year an average 20% employee vacancy rate across all departments, and unions representing workers at those other departments said many city employees were being overworked and underpaid. Many of their labor contracts will expire before the end of 2023.

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Source: NBC Los Angeles

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