Hermosa Beach save our police sign

Signs like this have graced the front yards of many Hermosa Beach residents in recent weeks as the city and its police association have battled over pay increases. The city finally reached a tentative agreement with the Hermosa Beach Police Officers Association on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. (Photo by Lisa Jacobs)

The Hermosa Beach Police Officers Association and the city have finally come to a tentative agreement after a drawn out and contentious labor dispute.

The tentative agreement, announced Tuesday at the Hermosa Beach City Council meeting, calls for a 19 percent raise over three years. It’s the largest pay increase in at least 25 years for POA members, according to the city.

The City Council will draft a memorandum of understanding, expected to be approved by the POA, at its next scheduled meeting on Feb. 11, according to City Attorney Mike Jenkins.

“We’re pleased to reach this tentative agreement and look forward to continuing to improve our efforts to recruit and retain police officers,” said Hermosa Beach City Manager Suja Lowenthal, in a statement. “We thank the City staff and our labor negotiator for their hard work in helping us reach this tentative agreement.”

The agreement provides for a 7 percent pay increase retroactive to July 1, 2019, a 6 percent increase beginning July 1, 2020, and a 6 percent increase beginning July 1, 2021. The POA and city also agreed to consider reopening negotiations in 2021 to address recruitment and retention of police officers.

“The community has been overwhelmingly supportive of the Police Department and our officers during this process and we are proud to represent and serve them,” said Hermosa Beach Sgt. Mick Gaglia. “The HBPOA is hopeful that this agreement will help solve the critical issue of retention and recruitment within the HBPD.”

Many supporters from the community spoke at city council meetings over the past few months, backing the Hermosa Beach police saying they are “overworked, understaffed and underpaid.”

Some residents and POA members have also been vocal on social media and have posted “Save Hermosa Beach Police” signs around the city as negotiations.

Negotiations began on April 1, 2019 and the POA claimed “staffing levels are dangerously low,” which will lead to more crime, slower response times and decreased community interaction.

In negotiating the three-year contract last year, the POA first proposed a total compensation bump of 18%. The city countered on May 16, with a 6% total. On May 30, the POA proposed a total 16% percent raise. On June 18, the city countered with a 7.5% total raise. On June 24, the POA's proposal called for a total 12% raise. The city countered that Aug. 28, with a proposal for a 9% increase.

That's when the POA increased their demand, asking in October for a 30% increase over the three-year contract. On Dec. 5, the city's “final offer” was a pay increase of 13 percent over three years.

With a market adjustment proposal, the city upped the proposed pay increase to 17 percent. According to the city, the POA countered with a 26 percent increase over three years at the Jan. 9 meeting.

A week later, the city proposed a 19% increase, but the POA rejected that offer as well, thus reaching an impasse, until the tentative agreement was announced Tuesday.

In addition to the tentative agreement, to improve recruitment and retention, Lowenthal recently initiated a sign-on bonus program that provides up to $30,000 to entry-level and pre-service recruits who join the HBPD.

According to Lowenthal, the program also provides up to $40,000 to “laterals,” qualified officers from police or sheriff’s departments who join the HBPD. These bonuses are paid incrementally over four years to encourage the retention of newly hired officers at the HBPD.

“We expect these bonuses and improved recruitment efforts, along with the pay increases and other incentives in the Tentative Agreement, will grow our police force and give our current officers incentives to stay with the HBPD,” Lowenthal said. “We look forward to working collaboratively with the HBPOA and HBPD leadership to hire the best possible police officers for the City of Hermosa Beach.”

Contact this reporter at mhixon@tbrnews.com or on Twitter @michaeljhixon.com.

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