Bling in the police union’s new contract

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Some might suggest that reading reports from the city’s budget analyst over tumblers of well bourbon at Mission Bar is a little pathetic. They’re right, but the damn things are so often full of such great little stories, we can’t help it. And they're not available on the city’s Web site; you have to request and obtain them from the board clerk’s office, leading us to wonder how many people actually read them.

San Francisco's longtime Budget Analyst Harvey Rose reviewed more than two-dozen union contracts for city workers passed this year by the Board of Supervisors. You’re gonna love what we found in the police union’s new agreement with the city.

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San Francisco police officers don’t like living inside city limits, because they say it’s too expensive. Cops do fairly well here, and as we reported awhile back, Gary Delagnes, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, even anticipates that his union’s rank-and-file will be the highest paid in the nation by 2011.

But that’s not enough to keep officers from escaping to the ‘burbs, which would pose a serious logistical problem if a major natural disaster occurred and emergency personnel couldn’t cross damaged bridges back into the city fast enough. Sup. Ross Mirkarimi contended earlier this month that 75 percent of the force lives outside the city, and he wants more recruitment efforts to take place within the heart of San Francisco. An equally startling number of firefighters live elsewhere, too.

So the city of San Francisco will be handing $20,000 checks to officers as a down payment on a home in the city if they move back. It’s actually a “loan,” but it doesn't have to be paid back if the recipient lives in the home for at least five years. If the cop is a renter, they can receive $5,000 for "relocation-related expenses."

Of course, we’re by no means the only city facing such a problem, and we’re not the first ones to consider subsidies to get cops to move back. Several large police departments nationwide require officers to live inside city limits, or at least in immediate suburban areas. New York was sued just a few months ago for giving cadets extra credit on entrance exams if they lived within the jurisdiction they patrolled or worked.

On top of that, officers here can also get $5,000 checks if they convince a cop working in another city to move to San Francisco, or at least get a job in the SFPD. If they refer a newbie without prior training, it’s $1,000.

Not bad. This is all in addition to the 25 percent total pay increases department employees will receive over the next four years. Overall, the department’s wage hikes alone will cost taxpayers about $65 million throughout the life of the contract, which expires in 2011.

To be fair, contract negotiators managed to save about $9 million by trimming overtime schemes, a “terrorism response training premium” and time-and-a-half pay for officers who are sitting at home on stand-by.

But there’s one more little item that taxpayers might find notable. Until now, POA President Gary Delagnes, who previously worked as a drug cop, accepted unpaid leave from the department to very loudly represent the union, according to Rose's report.

Next year, you’ll be paying his salary, about $85,000 for 30 hours of work per week, while he presumably continues launching barbs at the police commission and Office of Citizen Complaints.

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