San Francisco cops to be highest paid in the nation by 2010?

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By G.W. Schulz

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We usually call this segment "What's the city's cop union pissed about now?" But the SFPD doesn't appear to have a lot to be pissed about these days, if Gary Delagnes is right in promising that San Francisco police officers will be the highest paid in the nation by the year 2010.

Delagnes (pictured right) is president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, of course, and we like to keep track of what he's complaining about by reading through the often-disturbing POA Journal, a wonderful place to learn what's on the minds of the SFPD's rank-and-file.

In the August issue, Delagnes doesn't get around to attacking Gen-Xers or deriding "community nut jobs." He's too busy promising the fattest paychecks in all the land by the time the union's current contract expires, for which City Hall recently completed negotiations.

Here's the money shot from Delagnes:

"It was a team effort and our mission was accomplished. We will now finally approach our mission of 17 years ago when we vowed to be the highest paid major police department in the country. When that last raise kicks in on July 1, 2010, I believe we will have reached that goal."

There are a lot of things a police department can aspire to, we guess. But nothing could be as important as beating out the other bastards in pay. Delagnes precedes all of this with a stretch of a metaphor. When he played baseball as a young man, he hated to bunt, because, as he writes, he'd much rather clear the fences.

"One time I just ignored the coach's obvious bunt signal. Okay, maybe it was more than just once ... But the one time I do remember 'missing' the signal just about cost us the game. My coach at the time made sure I spent the next couple of games on the bench so that I would remember I was playing a 'team' game."

We're pretty sure Delagnes was trying to say that he couldn't have whipped the city into contractual submission without the rest of his negotiating committee, whom he goes on to thank individually. You know, teamwork. We think. He commits several column inches to this metaphor, and we're still not quite clear on it.

Either way, we could go in so many different directions with this one. Who's the opposing team here? The city? Taxpayers? Do we count the stubbornly slow implementation of foot patrols as a grand slam? Or the failure to accept independent civilian oversight and open disciplinary records as a no-hitter? Are a few signals from the city still being ignored, if he even regards us as on his side?

Perhaps that's not the kind of teamwork Delagnes had in mind.

During recent board discussions on the union's contract when some uppity supervisors dared to tie the department's crime-fighting performance to salary increases, Mayor Newsom and the union told the press that six percent annual raises for the next half decade or so were necessary to keep pace with other regional departments. But now we know Delagnes had much more in mind, like beating out the rest of the nation.

The supervisors who did question the contract were eviscerated for it. Sup. Ross Mirkarimi told the Chron June 27:

"The fact that we're walking on egg shells just to get through the very kind of hearing that we had today is emblematic that we have a long way to go. The police need to be trusting of this body if they want us to be trusting of them."

Fat chance, supervisor.

Meanwhile, a civil grand jury not long ago criticized the SFPD's outsized overtime payments. The city spent nearly $20 million on department overtime last year, and it expects to spend about $24 million this year.

Under the new contract, captains won't be eligible for overtime, but that's offset by a 31 percent pay increase for them over the next four years. A top-level officer will make nearly six figures. Not to mention, the SFPD has loads of uniforms doing civilian work behind desks, between 20 and 30 percent more than San Diego and Oakland.

So what does Delagnes call it when his union's contracts don't sail easily through City Hall without a tough debate on how to improve public safety? "The absurdity of San Francisco politics."

At least the locals here are paying attention, even if it means being attacked for it.

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