City Beat

News, insight and discussion on Sacramento and its neighborhoods

June 29, 2012
Sixteen Sacramento cops lose their jobs today, no deal in sight

Today is the last day of work for 16 city police officers who are losing their jobs after negotiations between their union and city officials broke down last week.

Meanwhile, city firefighters will conclude voting today on a tentative agreement their union came to with the city that would require those employees to pay their share of their pensions. If the agreement is ratified, it would save 44 firefighter jobs.

Results of that vote are not expected to be announced until early next week.

The outlook is dire for city cops. The police union walked away from the negotiating table last week after the City Council voted to place an elected charter commission on the November ballot.

That council vote may have given the police union a reason to walk away, but other differences set the breakdown in motion.

Dustin Smith, the acting president of the police union, said his organization had agreed to phased-in pension contributions that would have led to his members paying their full employee retirement share. He said another proposal would have raised the retirement age for new hires.

But city officials balked at union proposals to schedule raises in the next few years for officers, saying those increases would have added millions to future deficits.

"It's not a raise if your paycheck still goes down," Smith said, arguing the raises would have been more than offset by officers' pension contributions.

It seems any revival in talks hinges on the charter commission.

Should it pass, the commission's expenses would be covered by existing staff resources. However, police union leaders said the city could wind up incurring extra expenses associated with the charter commission if it has to contract out for attorneys and other staff members to work on it. Union leaders say it could be a conflict of interest for the city attorney and city staff to draft a charter that would affect their jobs.

Smith said he is also concerned about who might serve on the commission.

"You're going to have 15 people who are elected who may just think this is a stepping stone to future political aspirations," he said. "And they are going to determine how the city runs and operates. To me, that's dangerous."

Both the police and fire unions are worried a charter commission might recommend repealing legislation passed by city voters in the 1990s that requires the city to submit to binding arbitration in labor disputes.

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at rlillis@sacbee.com

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