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Monday, September 28, 2020
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News + Politics City Hall A quiet, sweetheart deal for the cops

A quiet, sweetheart deal for the cops

Plus: COVID worker protections and more secrecy at SFPD. That's The Agenda for Aug. 16-23.

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The Board of Supes will meet in closed session Tuesday/18 to discuss negotiations with city employee unions, and one of the issues on the table is a deal the Mayor’s Office and the Department of Human Resources has cut with the Police Officers Association.

Under the terms of the deal, the cops will get 3 percent raises each of the two years starting in 2022. That will be on top of another 3 percent hike they were expecting this year and next that will be delayed because of the COVID pandemic.

SF cops wear POA masks, a violation of general orders, during a protest on homelessness.

Let’s be clear here: Unlike other public employees who are being asked to delay raises, the cops didn’t “give up” raises that they had been promised – their contract already said that their raises would be delayed in the city’s finances fell short. From the 2018-2021POA Memorandum of Understanding:

Effective July 1, 2020, represented employees will receive a base wage increase of 2%, except that if the March 2020 Joint Report, prepared by the Controller, the Mayor’s Budget Director, and the Board of Supervisors’ Budget Analyst, projects a budget deficit for fiscal year 2020-2021 that exceeds $200 million, then the base wage adjustment due on July 1, 2020, will be delayed by six (6) months and be effective the pay period including January 1, 2021.

Effective January 1, 2021, represented employees will receive a base wage increase of 1%, except that if the March 2020 Joint Report, prepared by the Controller, the Mayor’s Budget Director, and the Board of Supervisors’ Budget Analyst, projects a budget deficit for fiscal year 2020-2021 that exceeds $200 million, then the base wage adjustment due on January 1, 2021, will be delayed by six (6) months and be effective close of business June 30, 2021.

The bigger issue, though, is that the current contract, and the proposed contract, don’t allow for many of the necessary reforms that the POA has blocked or sought to delay in the past. In essence, the Mayor’s Office, while cutting $40 million from the police budget, is giving the POA a great deal – and the city’s getting very little in exchange.

From John Crew, former ACLU police practices attorney:

In other words, if the Board approves this very bad deal, the City would be giving the already-extremely generously-compensated SFPOA members…  (with the SFPOA bragging in recent years they had the best compensated cops in the country)…  two more 3 percent annual pay hikes lasting through June 30, 2023 in exchange for an 18-month deferral of a 2 percent raise and a one-year deferral of a 1 percent raise.

Plus — as importantly — the SFPOA seemingly  gets the same damn contract terms locked into place until 2023 (!) with none of the necessary reform concessions being sought or achieved by the Mayor’s negotiators — concessions that could finally speed up SFPD reform or at least somewhat blunt the SFPOA’s on-going resistance to them. And, the next contract would come up for talks during the next mayoral race, which is the schedule the SFPOA had in the past and always preferred in order to maximize their political leverage.

As Crew points out, the US Conference of Mayors, in a report issued just last week, calls for greater scrutiny of police union contracts:

“Over the years, police contracts — union CBAs (collective bargaining agreements) —have evolved into much more than standard labor contracts. They cover the expected areas—hours, wages, benefits—but many have grown to include substantial barriers to basic accountability.

The New Yorker explained this in great detail earlier this month.

During the last contract talks with the POA, activists organized around #NoJusticeNoDeal demanded that the cops agree to basic reforms around use of force and discipline before the city gave them a raise. (You can read the letter here.)

Crew points out that:

The leadership of the POA has not  “reached a tentative agreement with the city.” The mayor and her DHR negotiators are not “the city.”

The Board of Supes, most of whose members have taken a vow not to seek support from the POA, will have the final word.

And at some point, this ought to be discussed in public, with public testimony.

Meanwhile, the supes will also almost certainly approve two settlements together worth $455,000 in legal cases the stem from alleged police misconduct. One case stems from the annual Dolores Park skateboard run in 2017. For years, skaters bomb the Dolores Street hill; most of the time, in the past, the events have been safe and the cops have been on hand to block traffic and do crowd control.

This time, according to the suit, Sgt. Flint Paul “went rogue” and pushed 19-year-old Anthony Economus, who was heading down the hill at high speed, into a parked police car, causing him traumatic injuries.

Chief Bill Scott declined to discipline the sergeant. Now the city’s out $180,000.

In another case, police shot Oliver Barcenas in the back as he was running away during a celebration of the Warrior’s championship in 2018. Again, the city cleared the officers involved. But now the taxpayers are putting up $275,000 to settle his suit.

Oh, and during the protests after the George Floyd murder, the SFPD used a direct feed from security cameras controlled by the Union Square Business Improvement District so officers could monitor activists in the area, according to a letter Chief Scott send to the supes this week:

Homeland Security Unit (“HSU”) requested access to BID’s network of security cameras live feed in the event incidences of looting, vandalism and rioting continued. On May 31st , BID provided a remote link which allowed SFPD members to access live feed, if needed.

As it turns out, nobody looted anything in Union Square over the next few days, so the surveillance was never used.

But still: BIDs giving live feeds to the cops feels kind of creepy.

The Government Audit and Oversight Committee will consider Thursday/20 two key pieces of employment legislation to protect workers during the COVID crisis. A measure by Sups. Hillary Ronen, Gordon Mar, Norman Yee, and Shamann Walton would protect workers from adverse actions like termination or demotion if they are isolating dur to COVID or have tested positive and can’t come to work. And Mar is seeking a temporary right to re-employment for people laid off during the pandemic. That meeting starts at 2pm.

The Police Commission will hear a report Wednesday/12 on the department’s response to SB 1421, the legislation that requires that certain disciplinary records of police officers be released to the public. I can tell you something about the response: I first asked, under SB 1421, for the disciplinary records of the officers involved in the killing of Alex Nieto in January 2019. The department has now sent me 31 – yes, 31 – “extension letters” saying they are too busy to respond to my request.

Oh, they will get to my request, eventually:

SFPD has received a number of requests for previously confidential peace officer records made public as a result of the passage of SB 1421. Despite our best efforts to respond promptly, a backlog has quickly developed and will remain for some time. SFPD must balance its duty to respond to public records requests with its duty to perform the broad range of tasks performed by SFPD personnel that result in keeping the peace and maintaining safety in our communities. Responding to your request will be quite burdensome and time-consuming, especially when coupled with our duty also to respond to like public records requests from others. SFPD will not be able to respond within the customary time frame without unreasonably impinging on its ability to perform its other duties.

I know the SFPD is busy, but 18 months to respond to a basic public records request is a bit extreme. Perhaps the commission can ask the chief how many other requests have been delayed, and for how long.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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