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Police union, city reach contract deal

After eight months of negotiations and five months of working without a contract, the Turlock Associated Police Officers and the City of Turlock have reached an agreement deemed acceptable to both sides.

The main sticking point between the two sides has been over pay, which TAPO states has made it difficult for the department to obtain and maintain adequate staffing levels. The police department has been experiencing a number of vacancies, some through departures for other agencies and others from long-term injuries. During the negotiation process TAPO repeatedly pointed to data that Turlock’s pay scale has fallen below other agencies in comparably sized cities, making it difficult to attract new hires and transfers.

“Even by the city’s own survey we were 23 percent behind other comparable departments,” said TAPO President Sgt. Russell Holeman.

The solution to the pay gap for the two sides was not so simple as raising the base rate. The City of Turlock employee unions have what is commonly called the “me too clause.” It is a contract provision that allows one party in a collective bargaining agreement, in this case a union, the same deal reached by another party in subsequent negotiations. So, if the City agreed to a base pay raise for TAPO, it would trigger base pay raises for the other employee unions.

“We have been acutely aware of the budget and realized we were somewhat handcuffed as to what we could do because of the ‘me too clause,’” Holeman said.

The deal reached between TAPO and the City provides for a monetary incentive for those sworn officers who have obtained Peace Officer Standards and Training certificates. The provision will grant officers with an intermediate or advanced P.O.S.T. certificate an increase of 5 percent of their base salary. Those with both certificates would get an increase of 10 percent of their salary.

“Not everyone is going to qualify for this,” Holeman said. “It’s only for the sworn police officers that have put in the time and training.”

The implementation of the raise will be staggered with some steps retroactive. The last step will be implemented on Aug. 1. The contract itself covers from Aug. 1, 2014 to July 31, 2017.

The union vote to accept the contract was unanimous, Holeman said. The Turlock City Council approved the contract on Tuesday night by a 5-0 vote.