The Phoenix City Council has unanimously voted in favor of a new police union contract that guarantees the second pay raise for officers in less than a year and adds $20 million to salaries, making Phoenix police officers the highest paid law enforcement in Arizona.
Additionally, the contract includes a significant increase in the police department’s annual budget, marking a 15.2% jump from $850 million to $979 million.
The negotiation process for the new contract was not without controversy, with activists protesting the guaranteed raises for Phoenix officers.
For instance, Stephani Espinosa, a member of advocacy group Poder in Action, expressed concerns that the police budget continues to grow while community resources and programs receive minimal funding.
Another controversial aspect of the deal was due to the police union failing to provide a draft of its contract proposal to the public in December — a break from tradition and a violation of Phoenix city code.
Despite protests from advocacy groups, the City proceeded with negotiations for the new police contract behind closed doors.
While other city employee unions also did not disclose their contract proposals, attention was focused on the police department due to the significant power held by its union.
Darrell Kriplean, the president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, said the budget increase is necessary to ensure public safety, noting the delayed response times by police in the city. “The current response times to all calls for service are unacceptable,” he said.
A poll from last year found that a majority of Phoenix police officers supported increased funding in the face of staffing shortages and low morale.
Although the department offered signing bonuses last year to attract recruits, the strategy has not been as effective as officials would have hoped.
Under the new contract, the police department’s budget will far exceed that of any other department, with its current funding of $850 million overshadowing the $496 million allocated to the fire department, the second-largest budgeted agency.
Both Poder in Action and the think tank Goldwater Institute filed lawsuits against the City, arguing that the union’s initial contract proposals should have been made public. While a judge agreed that the negotiations violated city code, intervention was not granted. The Goldwater Institute’s lawsuit seeking records from the City is still ongoing.
Unlike previous years, the new police contract will only be in effect for one year and includes minimal policy changes. The most notable change aligns the contract’s language on misconduct investigations with state law.
The contract guarantees a 2.16% base wage increase for all Phoenix officers, along with a one-time payout equal to approximately 5% of their annual salaries. While all city unions saw an overall 4.5 percent increase in pay during contract renegotiations, Phoenix officers received additional raises last year, making them among the highest-paid law enforcement personnel in Arizona.
During a City Council policy meeting, the proposed budget for the next fiscal year was presented, revealing the City’s plans for the police department. Subject to change until its finalization in June, the budget represents a substantial increase for the department compared to recent years.
Last year, the police agency experienced an 8% increase of $63 million. The proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes a 15.2% annual increase, bringing the department’s budget close to $1 billion for the first time. The increase is partly attributed to the department’s intention to add more civilian positions, including police assistants and non-sworn investigators.
If approved, the Phoenix Police Department’s budget will account for 22.1% of the City’s total budget, up from 21.1% in the current fiscal year. Other departments will also receive budget increases, although not as substantial.
The fire department’s budget is set to rise by 13.9%, from $496 million to $565 million. The housing department will also see a significant boost, with its budget increasing by 60.8% from $124 million to $199 million.
On the other hand, the Human Services Department, responsible for emergency rent assistance, will face an 11.6% budget decrease, reducing it from $196 million to $173 million.