With just over a month until the police union’s current contract expires on September 30, insufficient progress has been made in convincing union officials to drop the protections that keep bad cops in force.
The 15 collective bargaining sessions between city and police union officials that began in February did not have the drama and vitriol that characterized negotiations five years ago, so there was a lot less headlines. Yet now it seems time for city negotiators to declare an impasse unless union officials agree to give the police chief the authority to fire bad cops and agree that a agent must be taken into account in all disciplinary proceedings.
As senior reporter Iris Dimmick previously reported, disciplinary reform – by specifically strengthening the rules around the appeals process for officers accused of misconduct – is the city’s top priority in these negotiations in its efforts to prevent the fired cops to return to the San Antonio Police Department.
The city wants the police chief to have more power to decide which police officers are no longer fit to work for him, while the San Antonio Police Officers Association says a third-party arbitrator should continue to have the final say. The city moved slightly before talks were suspended in April in the run-up to the May elections, allowing an arbitrator to overturn discipline deemed “arbitrary and capricious.” The police union has so far accepted similar language, but disagreement persists on some of the more delicate points of the appeals process for fired cops.
Picture this: A San Antonio police officer can beat an unarmed civilian, be fired by the police chief for gross misconduct, and then return to work after a third-party adjudicator reduces the sentence to a suspension. The same officer can commit another assault a few years later, and the first incident cannot be used to decide on disciplinary action.
This is possible thanks to a provision in the police contract which must disappear. Otherwise, in this era of citizens demanding and promised real police reforms by Mayor Ron Nirenberg and other elected officials, what do we have to talk about? It is the union’s turn to take action.
The permanent union clause will come into effect when the current contract expires. It offers eight years of protection for current wages and benefits, not to mention disciplinary proceedings, but it also means that grassroots union members will leave without a pay increase and see insurance premiums increase by 10% each year. , there is no new agreement.
The city has a carrot to offer before they go to bat. The carrot is better pay raises. His five-year 8% pandemic-induced offer came as city officials grappled with a $ 100 million hole in the budget, a hole that has now been more than filled thanks to stimulus spending federal. In fact, the city’s civilian workers are expected to receive a 5% increase in the new budget that goes into effect on October 1, after decades of lower increases than police and firefighters, and accepting fewer benefits. generous.
I bet city officials now think they can probably afford to meet or at least move closer to the union’s demand, which called for no pay hikes in the first two years of the contract, followed by 4% increase in each of the following three years. This is all the more true if the union accepts the 10% increase in the city’s health insurance premiums.
The union’s opening offer called for 12% over the next five years. Dimmick explained how the increases would occur, year by year, in this previously published article on the two parties and their different salary and benefit proposals.
The union’s salary proposal also includes two caveats: If City employees receive a cost-of-living increase or if firefighters receive higher annual increases, police will too. The 5% salary increase proposed for non-uniform municipal employees in the 2022 budget makes this clause the union is proposing more costly.
This could be a persistent problem.
The more generous salary package, of course, should be based on successful negotiation leading to real reforms of police disciplinary procedures.
If union negotiators don’t take the carrot, the stick remains. City officials should allow the evergreen clause to go into effect and suspend negotiations. It should be clear that any future resolution through mediation will not include a signing bonus to compensate for lost wages. The latest contractual stalemate ended with the police receiving 14% salary increases over four years as well as a signing bonus.
Hopefully Nirenberg and City Council show more determination than Mayor Ivy Taylor and City Council showed five years ago.
Union leaders should have no problem selling members a new contract that includes significant changes to the police disciplinary process while rewarding officers for the difficult and sometimes dangerous public service they perform and have accomplished throughout. of the pandemic.
The police deserve a fair raise. Citizens deserve police officers they can trust.