Phoenix Residents Push For Public Police Contract Negotiations

Published: Wednesday, December 16, 2020 - 7:54pm
Updated: Thursday, December 17, 2020 - 7:55am

Despite pleas from some residents, Phoenix will continue closed-door negotiations with the union representing more than 2,600 police officers and detectives.

The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, known as PLEA, submitted its initial offer to cover the next two fiscal years. Among other things, it asks for a 5% increase in total compensation and the right to purge some disciplinary documents from personnel files. 

“I think police have more privileges and protections than any other employee of the city. These inequities have existed for far too long,” said Councilmember Carlos Garcia. “I think it’s important for us to try and find equity amongst these folks and for PLEA not to continue to have privileges, specifically those that help them evade accountability.”

Several residents complained about the process.  

“The people of this city have the right to participate in negotiating the terms of the police contract,” a man said.

Another man told the council, “You don’t get to write op-eds embracing police reform with one hand and then negotiate a police union contract in secret that actively decreases transparency and accountability with the other hand.”

City Manager Ed Zuercher said Phoenix ordinance does not require negotiations with any labor group be conducted publicly. The council could vote to change the ordinance in the future if enough members support open negotiations. 

Wednesday’s meeting was the formal opportunity for public input on union proposals, but public comment is always taken at the end of formal council meetings. Throughout the year there have been many times when residents criticized police. 

Councilman Jim Waring said the criticism does not reflect the overall community: “To the officers, thank you for what you do. None of you is perfect, none of the councilmembers is perfect, I believe we are all trying to do our best. But the comments are just repeated and it is really discouraging, but it should not let you be discouraged in any way, shape or form, so it is not the majority of our residents.”

When unions were invited to address the council last week, PLEA’s chief negotiator said officers faced an unprecedented undertaking this year with protests against police brutality and election results and more service calls labeled as violent. 

Individual group negotiations between city management and five unions, including PLEA, will begin in January. If agreements are not reached by March 1, mediation could take place followed by a fact-finding hearing, if needed. The City Council ultimately decides whether to approve, disapprove or impose its own contracts on labor groups. 

Before the council votes on a final contract, Zuercher said it is published and posted on a council agenda with an opportunity for public comment.