San Jose police officers are getting a raise
A group of police officers in downtown San Jose. File photo.

Despite a year of tireless demands to defund the police, San Jose lawmakers voted unanimously to approve salary raises for officers in an updated labor agreement.

The new agreement between San Jose and its police department takes effect July 1. The updated contract gives full-time officers a 3.85% raise – starting May 16. They’ll receive another 3.85% pay boost on July 1, for a total of 7.7% for the year.

There’s also a $2,000 bonus for each officer because they didn’t receive a raise in 2020.

“It’s no secret it’s hard to be a police officer these days in big cities. We have the most thinly staffed large city police department in the country,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Councilmembers debated the new agreement briefly at the meeting before voting unanimously to approve the updated contract language.

City administrators began meeting behind closed doors with San Jose Police Officers’ Association negotiators on Nov. 6, 2020, and reached an agreement that included raises through June 30, 2022.

The agreement expires on June 30, 2022. The San Jose Police Officers’ Association could not be reached for comment.

The raises come amid calls to take money out of policing to invest in equitable social and economic programs in the aftermath of multiple police killings.

Community activist Tomara Hall said the City Council approving raises for cops before Wednesday’s public budget review session shows they are not listening to the community.

Hall, who helps lead an effort to remove police from San Jose Unified School District campuses, said she doesn’t feel the city is supporting vulnerable communities.

“They had an opportunity to wait and get community input, but have cut the community out of that decision,” she told San José Spotlight. “I am losing confidence in their transparency.”

Last summer, the city adopted a Police Reform Work Plan, which included 20 police reform tasks city councilmembers assigned to city officials. One of its key goals was to run a community advisory group on reimagining policing stands at hiatus.

Close to half of its original members left in protest of its ambiguity, lack of progress on addressing biased policing and SJPD involvement in the review process.

The members said there was no focus on police reform, and Black leaders were forced to prove experiences of racism when one member asked for data to prove its pervasiveness in policing.

The 2021-22 labor agreement also has changes related to the discipline arbitration process, allowing arbitration decisions to be made public.

Though the officer’s name and other identifications will be redacted from the post-arbitration report, Liccardo touted the provision as public transparency around arbitration decisions.

“In cities across the country, the processes for arbitrating discipline for police officers are far too secretive,” Liccardo said. “I don’t think this gets us to (independent arbitration) all the way, but these are good steps and we should recognize progress even if it’s not the complete solution we’re all looking for.”

The San Jose Police Officers’ Association will also have to select two arbiters registered with the California State Mediation and Conciliation Service for settling discipline matters. They previously had no mandate on eligible arbiters.

Within 90 days of the agreement’s adoption, city officials and union leaders will meet to discuss improvements of the database that tracks officer pursuits, uses of force, and complaints.

Another substantial provision allows the San Jose Independent Police Auditor to not only review SJPD Internal Affairs reports, but also an opportunity to shape the investigation.

The Independent Police Auditor can demand internal affairs interview more witnesses, and direct questions to the officer subject to the investigation.

Councilmember Maya Esparza on Tuesday asked city officials about a provision in the deal that allows civilians to serve in at least six positions once limited to sworn officers.

“We, in effect, are cutting six sworn positions?” she said.

Assistant City Manager Jennifer Maguire said sworn officers would be reduced, but there would be a net gain of civilians.

Contact Vicente Vera at [email protected] or follow him @vicentejvera on Twitter.

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