OAKLAND — BART police will receive a 16 percent raise over the next four years under a contract expected to be approved Thursday.
The agreement came amid a spike in violent crime over the summer, including the stabbing death of 18-year-old Nia Wilson, that elicited calls for a greater police presence on trains and in stations. The department has struggled with ongoing challenges to attract and retain officers.
BART has hired 24 new officers this year, said Chris Filippi, a BART spokesman. It still has another 21 positions to fill. But the higher pay should help, said BART police Officer Keith Garcia, president of the department’s police union.
“We’ve had people leaving in the last couple of years because of pay,” he said. “We’ll keep the people we have, and it’ll make us more attractive to new candidates.”
Under the agreement, which BART’s governing board and its police union are both expected to approve Thursday, police department employees will receive a one-time 6 percent pay boost, followed by cost-of-living increases of 2.5 percent in the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years, which begin on July 1, and 2.75 percent increases in the subsequent two years.
The one-time pay boost is meant to bring officers’ salaries more in line with other departments, BART staff said in a report to its governing board. It’s offset by other changes, staff said, that together result in a less an 1 percent increase to the payroll.
Many police department employees will pay more for their pensions and all will lose some benefits, too. They will no longer be given a $50 per month compensation for gym memberships or a $1,050 annual uniform allotment. And, rather than receiving holiday pay, that expected overtime was converted to year-round pay, which the district said was a cost-neutral compromise that reduces the need to back-fill overtime costs.
There are stronger accountability measures in the new contract, as well. Prior discipline can now be considered for progressive disciplinary measures for up to three years, up from two years, and for officers seeking promotions for up to two years, up from one year. There are also stronger incentives for bilingual officers and those who complete ongoing police training or college education.
The issue of police salaries and pay came to fore over the summer after three people died following assaults in BART trains or on stations. In what BART police Chief Carlos Rojas called the “one of the most vicious attacks” he’s seen in 30 years of policing, 27-year-old John Lee Cowell stabbed Wilson and her sister on the platform of the MacArthur Station on July 22. Cowell was arrested the next day.
The night prior, on July 21, 47-year-old Don Stevens and 24-year-old Jashawn Combs got into a fight on the Bay Fair station platform. Combs punched Stevens, knocking him down. Stevens struck his head against the concrete and was later declared brain dead. Police arrested Combs on July 30.
And, just a few days before that, on July 18, Gerald Bisbee, 51, got into a fight with 20-year-old Abdul Bey at the Pleasant Hill station. Bisbee suffered a small cut to the back of his knee in the altercation and later died from an infection to that cut. Bey was already in police custody when Bisbee died, police said.
BART responded to the spate of assaults with mandatory 60-hour work weeks for all police personnel to immediately beef up staffing. Those temporary staffing increases have since returned to normal.
The district also proposed $25 million in upgrades to surveillance technology, as well as $3 million in changes to staffing, to improve safety and security on the system. BART doubled its fare inspection staff in September and doubled-down on efforts to make it harder for people to jump fare gates.