SANTA ANA, CA — Faced with growing public criticism against planned pay raises, the Santa Ana Police Officers Association has agreed to defer their salary increases.
Santa Ana’s officers were slated to receive a pay raise starting July 1. Instead, they will defer it for six months, union president Gerry Serrano announced on the POA’s website Wednesday night.
“Because of the current world pandemic that no one could have predicted, the Association reached out to the city administration in an effort to meet the financial issues head-on with a plan to bring some relief to the budget,” Serrano wrote.
“Then, as we were thinking through the contract issues, the world was hit by the senseless death of George Floyd. Rather than dollars and cents, we sought to direct our efforts towards dollars and sense.”
The union plans to extend its contract for an additional six months “so that when we next discuss dollars, we will hopefully have a better idea what a post-pandemic economy looks like,” Serrano wrote.
In the wake of the police killing of Floyd, in Minneapolis, cities across the country are being asked to take another look at their police spending.
In Santa Ana, community members wrote and called in to a City Council meeting last week to demand that some of the money designated for public safety be shifted and reinvested instead in youth and other community programs. Similar demands are planned for next week’s council meeting. And on Friday, June 12, demonstrators gathered at Santiago Park and marched in Santa Ana, calling on city officials to “defund the police.”
In an email to union members, Serrano explained that officers will receive a 2% pay raise in January of 2021 and another 2% increase in July 2021. “We have not given anything away,” he wrote, underlining the last three words.
Deferring part of the 4% pay raise, Serrano wrote to his members, “makes sense and moves in the direction of strengthening our relationship with the city and our community.”
On Tuesday, June 16, the City Council is scheduled to vote on an amendment to the memorandum of understanding with the union, deferring the salary increase, extending the length of the contract and also making a one-time additional city contribution of 2% to the officers’ retiree health fund.
The deferral will save the city an estimated $2.3 million for the upcoming fiscal year, according to a city staff report. But for the following year, it will cost the city an estimated $2.7 million, which includes $1.2 million more for the lump-sum contribution to the retiree health fund.
“This isn’t a huge give to the city,” said Tim Johnson, a certified public accountant and a member of the Measure X oversight committee, which oversees sales tax money from a recent tax increase.
“Our city is facing a fiscal crisis that we need to tackle head on and this MOU should be the start and not the end of the financial reconstruction process,” Johnson said Friday.
Cecilia Iglesias, whose outspokenness against police raises cost her a seat on the council, said Friday that the pay increase deferral doesn’t much help the city.
In his statement on the union’s Facebook page, Serrano painted the members’ vote as a sign that they “love our city.”
Noting the union sponsors youth activities and other events, Serrano wrote: “We are good neighbors, friends, helpers and citizens. We will continue to be so in the future.”