LBPD Compensation Misinformation

By: 
Ian Patton
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Long Beach’s Tentative POA Contract Cites Low Comparative Pay to Justify Pay Raise, But Sacramento Bee Analysis Differs Sharply

The City of Long Beach announced Monday the details of the deal reached with the Police Officers Assoc. (POA) last December, set to go to a council vote as the new police contract next week. Though not in the headline of the press release, the bottom line appears to be a 9% increase in pay for our police officers (staggered over three years with 3% additions each year).
 
The press release (entitled “City of Long Beach, Police Officers Association (POA) Reach Tentative Labor Agreement”) justifies this increase as follows: (emphasis added) “Market analysis has determined that of the 10 comparable agencies, Long Beach consistently ranked at the bottom and more than 10 percent behind today’s median pay for a police officer.”
 
Who conducted this “market analysis” and will it be made available to the public? Which were the “10 comparable agencies”? Who selected them? If they were chosen by the POA, did the city bring its own list of comp agencies to the negotiating table? (We have been informed by a former council member that in fact the POA insists on unilaterally choosing the ten comparison agencies used in the police contracts and that this practice was strongly criticized by the outside review of city government conducted by Management Partners in 2012.)
 
The latter question is especially important in light of the fact that a recent project of the Sacramento Bee (Reese, Phillip, “See what California cities pay police, firefighters”, Sacramento Bee, Feb. 27, 2016), analyzing local public safety officers’ compensation throughout the State of California, produced data in direct contradiction of the claim that Long Beach “consistently ranked at the bottom” for median pay.
 
Indeed, Long Beach appears to rank much closer to the top. Furthermore, comparable police agencies that were used in the last contract (or “MOU”) appear to have been intentionally selected to weight median pay toward the high end among all Southern California police agencies (see attached data).
 
The council and public should be made aware of these facts and should have all questions answered prior to the final vote of the council on the new POA contract.

Background

The POA was by far the largest single funder behind the successful mayor-directed campaign to pass the Measure A sales tax hike last year, contributing over $270,000 from its political action committee.  That campaign promised to direct the new revenue generated toward two ends:  1) enhanced public safety investment, and 2) enhanced infrastructure investment.  However, after passage, the mayor’s proposed budget included a paltry 1% increase in the LBPD force, a total of just eight (8) new sworn officers (plus two clerical positions).  Over the objections of some council members, that budget was adopted.

The city’s Department of Finance says that the net $14.3 million annual general fund1 price tag of this 9% pay raise (including overtime changes in the new contract) will not come out of Measure A revenue.  Where then will it come from?  Already, several council members appeared mystified, during last year’s somewhat contentious budget hearings, by the apparent disappearance of the lion share of Measure A’s estimated $48 million worth of new annual revenue, at least half of which the public was led to believe would go toward a substantial expansion of public safety resources.  Councilman Austin referred to it as “a shell game” during the 9/13/16 City Council budget session, and there was a general sense that some council members felt the public safety portion of Measure A had already become a bait and switch (our words, not theirs)2

Councilmembers Austin, Price, and Supernaw attempted to amend the mayor’s budget proposal to extract just a handful of additional public safety personnel hires (just a few more police officers and enough fire dept. staffing for Paramedic Rescue 12 in north LB and Fire Engine 17 in East LB).  They were strongly rebuffed by the mayor and allied council members, who belittled them as “half baked” unbalancers of the budget, with support from strained-sounding city budget staff claiming that any additional public safety dollars would begin to unravel the not-yet-adopted Measure A infrastructure plan.  Yet when it came time, late last year, to “negotiate” with the POA (to whom the mayor is severely politically indebted), an unbudgeted, contractual annual obligation rising to $14.3 million was readily forthcoming and justified with a patently inaccurate assessment of the regional standing of officers’ current compensation.

1 LBPD accounts for approximately half of the expenditures from the $400+ million general fund.

2 See 9/13/16 Budget Oversight Committee colloquy between Austin/Price & Mungo, as well as 9/13/16 full Council Meeting budget discussion beginning at 1:11 (hour:minute) and 11/22/16 Council Meeting at 1:14 – video available at http://longbeach.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=12.

Unfortunately, there is nothing shocking about prioritization of political payback over public safety.  But it is particularly egregious in light of the release last week of 2016 crime stats, which show violent crime at record highs compared to recent history.  Misleading press release title (“…Murders Decrease by 8.3%”) aside (coming down off the 2015 spike of 36 murders is hardly something to brag about), compared to 2011-2015 averages, 2016 violent crime was up across all categories:  murder was up 12.2%, rape was up 8%, robbery was up 1.3%, and aggravated assault was up 13.1%.  The need is clear.  And the cause of the misallocation is just as clear. 

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