As I briefly wrote last month, the SFPOA and the city are involved in contract negotiations. Much like the last time we went into a negotiation for our contract in 2018, the road to getting something fair and equitable is just as hard if not harder than 2018 when the POA got an arbitration ruling. In 2018 we were battling several things. It was the beginning of our staffing issues, and the detractors of our profession began to be more vocal, even as the men and women wearing the uniform were going out everyday to do the job.
Now five short years later, we all know what this all devolved into. What we thought was hard back then was only the tip of the iceberg of what we face today. Everything has been amplified, and sadly some accept the status quo. Our city has one of the worst, if not the worst, open air drug markets in the country, the highest overdose death rate in the state, which works out to more than triple the deaths of people who died of COV-19. Homelessness, don’t get me started, we all know that broken record! The staffing crisis is touching almost every agency with all of them battling to get the best of the best to come work for their police or sheriff department. Not only do we need officers to respond to the above list of maladies, but all the other serious and traumatic calls for service we go to; shootings, robberies, burglaries, assaults, etc.
The biggest challenge with all of this is having the level of staffing that can handle the call load. Like that movie title, being everything, everywhere, all at once! That pretty much sums up what a police officer in the city of Saint Francis has to be! Even though over the past five years, some groups swore they could do without us. Saying that if the city just invested in them, they could solve all of our problems and restore our faith in humanity. How did that work out?
Last time we met at the bargaining table, people were screaming that we implement reform in our contract, to give away labor rights, to let the department do what they wanted. It didn’t happen last time and guess what? It is not happening now. A funny thing happened on the way to 2023, people don’t like to show up to work. The great work from home era is in full effect, not only for private industries but obviously government entities also. But you know who has to show up to work? POLICE OFFICERS! They are the folks who show up to work, every damn day; During a pandemic, during demonstrations, riots, sideshows all while working with restrictive policies and political drama. So, when we signed a collaborative reform agreement, the expectation was that our “partners” would pick up certain calls for service. Great. That would be helpful. What we quickly found out was that wasn’t going to be the case. When the infrastructure hasn’t been built then of course there is no help. Even the calls that the Street Crisis Response Team (SCRT) handle is a drop in the bucket. Of course, they still call us to respond with them and even say that they will not respond if we aren’t with them on certain calls. Like when I was out in the Bayview District and the police had to escort the Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT) and Department of Public Works (DPW) to go and clear the streets of cars, so the streets could be cleaned. Everyone needs us they just don’t like to admit, especially publicly, that this is the way a functioning society works. Not the free for all we see in our streets.
For many officers this contract negotiation is either going to be their first with this department or their last, depending on which side of the coin you are on in your career. We have many in the latter category. So, a refresher may be in order for those who are not familiar with the process.
Back in July of 2022, when the city gave us that last 3% raise from our 2018 contact along with a bump in retention pay, the consensus was that we needed to start the negotiations sooner rather than later. It seems with the city, they are game to go until they aren’t. Even when we were telling them that many officers where waiting to see what this contract would bring, their decision to stay or go would be riding on this contract. Even as the number of officers leaving during this last six months was increasing, the city still seemed ambivalent about what was happening as if we were pulling their leg, as if this was a negotiations tactic, even as they could see the mounting overtime cost for the department.
The hope in negotiations is both sides can come to a win-win agreement and then it can be sent to the members to vote on and the board of supervisors to vote and approve. All of which needs to happen by May 15, in order to conform with the charter requirements that it be read twice at the board of supervisors, so that when July 1, comes along, the clock starts on the new agreement. But there is always the notion that neither side will be able to come to terms and then issues are mediated. If that doesn’t happen, then arbitration is the last stop. If we go to arbitration, then it is the arbitrator’s decision, after hearing from both parties and using their best judgement on what we deserve for a fair and equitable contract. This would not be voted on by the members nor the board of supervisors, the decision would be final and binding.
So, where does this leave us today in our current state of negotiations? Fighting to get what is fair and equitable, to keep the valuable tenured officer a little while longer, to help the younger officer begin to build their legacy and put down roots for a long career, while we wait for an influx of people back into this profession. As one member recently wrote me, San Francisco is not the first choice for young people who want to go into law enforcement. They believe they can go some where else and make more money and be treated fairly. The labyrinth of a seven-step pay scale is ridiculous when they can go somewhere else and get to that top step quicker. Then there is the 3@58 retirement formula, which is another deterrent and the larger percentage they have to pay into retirement. The process to even get in the department takes too long, there is also an extra 8 weeks of SFPD mandates, that aren’t even a POST requirement, that new recruits have to contend with. Making it that much longer to be in the academy. One of the more disappointing and disturbing take aways I got from this member was that these potential recruits are scared away from San Francisco due to the politics in the city and the obvious lack of support for police officers from the mayor, board of supervisors, police commission and command staff. Perception is reality to these potential recruits, and that is hard to dispute.
We made be short staffed, with people having to work mandatory overtime, but the work is getting done much to the chagrin of some of our detractors who are looking for an excuse to come in and swoop up what they believe are easy assignments. They are not; Not going to happen. Sorry, but if you want to do the work we do, then we are accepting applications, you are welcome to apply.
Congratulations to Louie Wong!
Congratulations to Louie Wong on his election to Sergeant-At-Arms of the SFPOA! Louie has been fighting for members during his long tenure as a board rep and a defense rep. Louie will continue fighting for the next three years as the SFPOA keeps pushing for our members to get the tools that we all need to do the job we all took an oath to do to protect San Francisco! As the first Asian American to serve on the SFPOA Executive Board, Louie continues to blaze new trails to be an inspiration to younger officers and our members in this organization are a true representation of the communities we serve! Again, congratulations and let’s get to work!
Thank you, Sean!
When the triennial POA Executive Board nominations date approached in December of 2022, Sean Perdomo announced that he would not be seeking another three-year term as our long-serving POA treasurer. While we were all sad to see Sean depart from his leadership position in this organization, none of us were surprised. It is difficult for anyone to maintain the energy and self-sacrifice necessary to function effectively on the executive board. After so many years dedicating his personal time to the membership, Sean is now ready to focus on his family and career. We thank him for his dedication and service, and wish him all the best going forward.
Thank you, Sean, for everything!