Salt Lake police have ended contract negotiations with the city and are waiting to see if entry-level officers in the state's largest metropolitan police department will make the same as officers in West Valley City.
Entry-level salaries for Salt Lake and Ogden officers are lower than their counterparts in West Valley and Provo but are about $1,300 a year more than those of Utah Highway Patrol troopers, according to a state survey.Officer salaries are hot topics in Ogden and Salt Lake city halls as contracts for both departments are being negotiated. Only Salt Lake police have been offered an increase.
The Salt Lake salaries are comparable to those in neighboring communities, but Dave Greer of the Salt Lake Police Association said the pay is not high enough.
"We feel it should be higher because of Salt Lake's higher crime rate and the number of calls we're faced with. We have the most violent type of crime, so our guys ought to be the highest paid," Greer said.
Negotiators for Salt Lake City have agreed in principle to restructure the pay scale, which would take care of some of the pay problems, including low starting salaries. At the end of a meeting Friday, however, negotiator John Gisel balked at the retirement provision.
Salt Lake City Police Association members last week endorsed a plan by Greer that realigns the pay scale and has the city picking up retirement fund contributions.
A state law passed during the Legislature last January lets governments make employees' retirement fund payments. The law means a stronger and more efficient fund, Greer said.
"If the city goes with the new retirement plan, then they have a deal with us," Greer said. But without the retirement change, Salt Lake police won't agree to the new pay scale and will get the same raise that the city ends up giving other city-employee unions.
No more negotiating sessions are planned between the city and police. Any further meetings will be after the city decides whether to go with the retirement plan.
Gisler is "still describing it as too rich. But nonetheless, the guys voted that as the bottom line."
That bottom line costs $380,000, about half what officers originally sought.
"We're at a point where nothing more can happen until the city makes the policy decision. You buy a plan that pays for itself in two years and you got a contract."
Meanwhile, the Ogden Police Benefit Association is staging a work slowdown to demonstrate its displeasure with recent salary talks.
The association's request for a cost-of-living raise and an increase in the city's share of medical insurance premiums was rejected by the City Council.
Phil Howell, Ogden police union chairman, said the officers also asked that the city provide $38,000 to fund a vacant sergeant's position. Although it is only one position, it would enable some officers to advance within in the department.
"We gave up all our high-cost conditions. We conceded most of them. At the very least we could save this one $38,000 spot," Howell said.
Unlike Salt Lake City, Ogden city employees are not authorized to participate in collective bargaining with the city government.
"Consequently, there's not been much leverage. What we've been doing for years is collective begging. There's no give and take," Howell said.
Ogden Police Capt. Robert Warren said there is still a possibility that the sergeant's position may be funded during the new budget year. In the meantime, officers will continue the work slowdown started at the beginning of the week.
"We will no longer do quick investigations that may not be the best investigations. We will no longer overlook the safety aspects of the jobs because of the lack of manpower," Howell said.
Public safety will not be jeopardized by the work action, he said.
Salt Lake officers would have a work speedup with a slew of tickets handed out for jaywalking, littering and other minor infractions. Greer said officers in the capital city would not think of doing less.
"Those guy don't slow," Greer said. "They are just anxiously awaiting the chance to catch a bad guy."