LAPD contract designed to improve hiring, retention approved by city council
The contract will bump starting salaries for officers by nearly 13% and provide annual base raises of 3%
By Linh Tat
Los Angeles Daily News
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles City Council voted 12-3 on Wednesday, Aug. 23, to ratify a contract with the city’s police officers that would bump up their starting salaries by nearly 13% and provide annual base raises of 3%. Taken together with additional bonuses, officers covered by the contract will get a 4% to 6% wage increase each year for four years.
Mayor Karen Bass and those who support the contract say the heavy investment is critical for retaining and recruiting officers in the Los Angeles Police Department, which has seen its numbers dwindle over the years.
“Our police department, just like other major city police departments, is enduring a hiring and retention crisis,” Bass said in a statement. “Around the same time that we struck a tentative agreement, the LAPD sworn force dipped below 9,000 for the first time since 2002. 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.”
Bass has set a goal to increase the number of sworn officers in the department to about 9,500 by June 2024 – a goal that many consider difficult to reach given the continued attrition rates and low number of new recruits.
The department had 8,995 sworn officers for the pay period ending July 29, according to a report to the police commission.
As a result of the labor agreement, LAPD’s annual budget is projected to increase by at least $384 million by the end of the contract, Cumulatively, the city is projected to spend $994 million in additional funds over the life of the contract.
These projections assume the city will have 9,100 sworn officers on its payroll by the end of this fiscal year, City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo told the City Council.
The contract the council approved Wednesday, which had already been ratified by the police union, applies to rank-and-file officers, sergeants, detectives and lieutenants.
Union spokesperson Tom Saggau said in a statement that the council took a “bold and necessary step” to restoring the number of officers and expressed a commitment to working on efforts for more unarmed responses.
“We are eager to partner with (the mayor) and the council on creating a national model for unarmed responses to certain calls for service and retaining experienced officers to implement these initiatives,” said Saggau of the Los Angeles Police Protective League.
While the majority of the council supported the contract, Councilmembers Eunisses Hernandez, Hugo Soto-Martinez and Nithya Raman – all of whom were endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America’s L.A. chapter when they ran for election – voted against it.
Hernandez, who had campaigned on cutting funding to the police department, was the only councilmember to vote “no” on this year’s city budget, saying at the time that the LAPD’s $3.2 billion budget was equivalent to the spending plans for more than 33 other city departments and bureaus combined.
During a press conference ahead of the City Council vote, Hernandez said it was unclear how the city will pay for the nearly $1 billion in cumulative additional costs over the next four years, not to mention that it takes money away from other critical services.
“When we allocate so much of our city dollars to just one department, we starve all of our other departments of the money, personnel and resources that they need to serve Angelenos,” Hernandez said. “I hear from my constituents every day who are frustrated because they cannot access the basic city services.”
It takes the city seven years to repair a sidewalk and three to five years to install a blue “handicap” curb because other departments are understaffed and underfunded, she said, making similar points during the council discussion later in the day.
Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez, a frequent critic of the LAPD, said the contract would increase the starting salary of a police officer to about $97,000 by the 2026-27 fiscal year and asked people to imagine how differently the city would look if a mental health or homeless outreach worker was paid that much starting out.
“Today, City Council is going to vote on a budget that doubles down on the status quo that works for nobody while throwing away … a once-in-a-generational opportunity to truly transform our public safety system that leads with care,” he said during the morning press conference.
During the council meeting, members of the public on both sides of the debate weighed in.
Several business owners, as well as a representative from the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, or VICA, a business group, endorsed increasing officers’ pay to incentivize more people to join or remain on the force.
“Public safety is a cornerstone of a thriving community. A secure environment is essential for economic prosperity and improving everyone’s quality of life,” said Victor Reyes of VICA.
But those opposed to the agreement criticized the LAPD, which has logged 20 incidents thus far this year of officer-involved shootings. Someone was hit in 17 of those shootings.
Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, anticipating the outcome of Wednesday’s vote, called it “shameful” that the majority of councilmembers intended to vote to give raises to LAPD officers.
“If you are a Black member of L.A. City Council, you should stand for your people, not the police who target us,” Abdullah said.
Councilmembers who spoke in support of the agreement pointed to the need to be more competitive in attracting and retaining officers.
Councilmember Traci Park said officers deserve to be fairly compensated because they serve on the front lines in responding to homelessness and people experiencing a mental health episode or having a substance abuse addiction. They’re also expected to be arbiters in neighborhood disputes and to enforce laws, she added.
“Just think about what we ask of our public safety officers. We ask them to be everything for all people all the time,” she said.
According to the mayor’s office, LAPD has lost more than 430 officers who were in their first year-and-a-half on the job. Many joined other police agencies within the first 10 years of their career.
A presentation by the chief administrative officer, Szabo, also showed that the starting salary of an LAPD officer is below the median in L.A. County. With the adoption of the new contract, the starting salary of LAPD officers will be above the median starting salary for the area.
Staff writer Josh Cain contributed reporting.