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Claremont police officers make their case on future pay increases

The conflict between the city and the Claremont Police Officers Association (CPOA) is heating up.

Corporal Nick Martinez spoke to the city council during public comment, two weeks after the council voted to push through terms and conditions of employment with the CPOA after the group reached an impasse with city negotiators.

Eight other officers, all wearing matching black CPOA shirts, sat in the chambers while Cpl. Martinez spoke.

The CPOA, in part, had asked for a pay raise during months of negotiations, which broke down in February. The city denied the increase, citing the ongoing structural deficit and a desire for equity among all employee groups, who did not receive raises.

After a fact-finding report was released earlier in June, the council voted unanimously to push forward the employment terms n June 25. Cpl. Martinez said the POA wasn’t notified of the terms being voted on until the day before the council meeting. Before that, there was silence, he said.

“The problem we’re having, I’m having, the POA is having—we feel like no one’s listening,” Cpl. Martinez said. “We’re talking, but no one’s listening.”

He sought to clarify what he said was a misinterpretation of the issue in the COURIER—he claimed that people were led to believe the city council approved a contract with the POA.

“We all in this room know you did not approve a contract,” Cpl. Martinez said. “What happened was there was a negotiation, and we proceeded to impasse and the council voted to impose terms on the POA.”

In the first sentence of the June 27 COURIER article, it was clearly stated that the council “pushed forward” the terms and conditions of employment.

While the fact-finding report noted the CPOA was looking for a four percent pay increase in the 2018-2019 fiscal year and an additional four percent for 2019-2020, Officer Martinez said the association softened that position.

“At the very end, there were people that were saying, ‘You put down a number, stop asking us to put down a number, you put down a number,’” he said. “And that never happened.”

Cpl. Martinez also took issue with the city’s position of parity amongst all employee groups, saying, “They want a one size fits all contract for all bargaining units.”

He told a story about last Saturday’s robbery call at Claremont Pharmacy, where the subsequent pursuit reached speeds of 100 miles per hour through residential neighborhoods in Claremont and Pomona.

“You want to tell me that the negotiation process should be—for people like us who put our lives on the line for the citizens of Claremont every day we go to work—we’re just like everybody else? One size fits all,” he said. “That makes zero sense. That makes zero sense to anyone.”

The city council responded Thursday afternoon through a press release provided by City Spokesperson Bevin Handel.

“It is unfortunate that after a year of negotiations, the Claremont Police Officers Association did not agree to a new contract as the city’s other five employee associations did,” the council said. “The city council authorized comparable contract terms for CPOA as those provided to its other employee organizations. The council’s decision to implement these terms and conditions without CPOA’s agreement reflects the city’s commitment to both fiscally responsible governance and to establishing parity between and among city employees.

“The city council prioritizes public safety and values the contributions of the men and women who serve in the city’s police department,” the statement continued. “The city council looks forward to working with CPOA to ensure that the citizens of Claremont continue to receive the best law enforcement services possible.”

For the city’s other five employee groups, the negotiated contracts feature a one-time bonus of up to $1,000 if revenues exceeded expenditures in the 2017-2018 fiscal year. In November 2018, bonuses of $718 per person were issued to 143 city employees. The CPOA contract imposed by council also features a $718 one-time bonus for police officers.

City contracts also allow merit increases in one percent increments for all employee groups. While those increases are not guaranteed, they can be given based on performance and tenure after an employee’s annual review, Ms. Handel said.

The city met in closed session Tuesday with all employee groups, including the CPOA. Mr. Calaycay said at the council meeting there was no reportable action.

The council also approved the city’s latest housing element, its latest attempt to get in sync with the state. They also approved extending a moratorium on scooter businesses, while looking into a county bike-share program put on by the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG). More on that will be in next week’s COURIER.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com