‘Morale is very low’: Labor talks stall between Pleasanton police, city

PLEASANTON, Fla. — The Pleasanton Police Officers Association and the city have reached an impasse in their labor negotiations, as officers seek higher pay and additional incentives to attract and retain employees amid a staffing shortage that they claim has resulted in fewer officers available to enforce traffic and drug laws.

The impasse is now in its third month, and it’s unclear when it will be resolved. A mediation session last month failed to reach a new agreement between the two parties. The POA, according to Brian Jewell, president, is now requesting a fact-finding panel through the California Public Employment Relations Board, a legal step in negotiations meant to bring independent scrutiny to the opposing positions. He predicted that the panel would begin work by the end of September.

“Morale is very low,” Jewell, a Pleasanton police officer, said. “Agencies across California and the country are struggling, as is the law enforcement profession as a whole.” However, it is extremely difficult within the city of Pleasanton.”

According to Jewell, department wages lag behind those of neighboring agencies.According to one metric, the base hourly pay for a Pleasanton police officer is $61.19. According to the association, the average base hourly pay for agencies in the region, which includes Livermore, Walnut Creek, Concord, and Hayward, is $66.70.

This gap, according to Jewell, is impeding the Police Department’s ability to fill vacancies with qualified candidates and retain experienced employees. He claims that staffing shortages caused by unfilled positions and officers on medical or personal leave have weakened the department’s enforcement of traffic violations and the distribution of illicit narcotics. Specialized units that would have supplemented such enforcement, according to Jewell, have been “disbanded.”

“What’s at stake is that more officers will leave, and our staffing will get worse and worse and worse,” Jewell said. “And that will have an impact on our ability to serve this community effectively.”

According to a [city website detailing its position in negotiations], the Police Department “has reallocated personnel to meet the department’s and our community’s most critical needs,” according to a city website detailing its position. “The Police Department’s service levels and response times have remained unchanged.”

In May, the city made an offer that included a 15% pay raise for police officers over a proposed three-year contract, as well as an 18% raise for sergeants. The offer also included a pay increase for certain departmental assignments, such as SWAT and crime scene investigators, as well as an increase in the city’s contribution to a retiree health savings account.

The compensation package was described by the city as “generous” and “one of the largest pay increases for police officers and sergeants in the city’s history.” The city says its offer comes as it expects general fund spending to outpace revenues, owing primarily to pension obligations, and that relying on one-time resources such as reserves to cover employee compensation will not be sustainable in the long run.

During anticipated deficit years, the city will need to consider new ways to generate revenue and/or reduce operating costs, as well as allocations to the city’s capital improvement program and repair and placement fund, according to city budget documents.

A city spokesperson declined to comment.

However, the city’s offer appears to be insufficient.

The POA’s vice president, Sgt. Chris Lewellyn, stated that the organization is working to raise pay in Pleasanton to market rates. A sticking point in negotiations has been what the association refers to as “career incentive pay,” which would provide tiered pay increases for officers with eight, twelve, and fifteen years of experience, with a maximum of 5%. The proposal of the association was rejected by the city. “We’re trying to catch up in order to recruit and retain our officers,” said Lewellyn. “We also want to bring back services to our community because we have disbanded specialized units that are no longer operational.” Members of the community are aware of this.”

The labor dispute between police officers and the city comes at a time when residents rank safety as their top concern. In a city survey conducted this year by the firm FM3 Research, crime was ranked as the most serious issue confronting Pleasanton residents. Housing came in second place.

“No. 1 on that list is concerning to us,” the sergeant explained, “because we have reached our limit in terms of what we can do with the officers we have.”

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