Claremont police officers, city close stalemate with new contract

by Matthew Bramlett | news@claremont-courier.com

After a stalemate that lasted over a year and a half, the Claremont Police Officers Association (CPOA) has a contract.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) reached with the city was unanimously passed by the council Tuesday night. The passing of the contract ends a contentious battle between the CPOA and the city council that lasted since June 2018.

In a statement, the CPOA said they were pleased to announce the agreement with the city “after more than 600 days without a contract.”

“This agreement is in alignment with similar agreements the city council reached with other employee groups,” the CPOA stated. “We believe it is fair and respects the hard work performed every day by Claremont police officers and does not burden the city’s budget, especially when public safety is made a priority.”

A major part of the contract is the implementation of a salary survey that was conducted in November 2019. The survey compared salaries of similar cities that were mutually agreed upon by both parties, and if Claremont’s salaries were lower than the average, they would be given raises to stay competitive.

The survey found that salaries for Claremont police officers, corporals and senior jailers were five percent below the average; jailers were four and a half percent below the average; parking enforcement officers were three and a half percent below the average and police recruits were three percent below the average.

Those salaries will be bumped up to stay competitive, retroactive to July 1, 2019.

The cost of implementing the salary survey is estimated at $230,540, the city said. The money will be coming from savings from a vacant police officer position and a vacant senior civil engineer position.

The CPOA also scored another salary survey that will be conducted on May 30, 2020 and implemented on July 1. That survey has yet to find a funding source.

It was a bumpy road to get to this point. The CPOA and the city’s bargaining team had been negotiating for months after the association’s initial contract expired in July 2018.

Part of what the CPOA wanted was a four percent salary increase for 2018-2019 fiscal year and another four percent increase for 2019-2020. The city denied this, citing the desire for equity among all employee groups, which did not receive raises.

An impasse was declared in February 2019, and the city imposed terms and conditions of employment on the police officers in June 2019. Throughout the summer, CPOA members spoke during public comment at council meetings, urging a new contract.

The CPOA then turned up the heat, releasing a video in September claiming the council and then-Mayor Corey Calaycay “successfully dismantled the Claremont Police Department and failed to make public safety a priority.”

Mr. Calaycay responded that he respected the work the police officers did and was disappointed they chose that particular direction during negotiations.

At one point, the CPOA claimed the city was looking into eliminating the salary survey altogether during the negotiation process.

The CPOA’s contract follows a contract the city hammered out last month with the Claremont Police Management Association (CPMA), which includes sergeants, lieutenants and captains. The CPMA received a salary survey in their contract as well.

Councilmember Corey Calaycay, who voted against the CPMA contract because there was no funding source identified for their 2020 salary survey, took the time to apologize to the employee group Tuesday evening. After the meeting was the council’s February 11 discussion on contracting with the LA County Sheriff’s Department, which saw an outpouring of support from the community for the police department.

“It was very clear from our residents that police are a priority, and even since that meeting I received further extensive feedback from our residents reaffirming even amongst them that point of view,” he said, expressing to the officers that it wasn’t about their performance or quality of service, but rather “the reality of our financial situation.”

In their statement, the CPOA thanked the community for their support, particularly during the February 11 meeting.

“The Claremont Police Officers Association will continue to work with our chief and the city to maintain the highest level of service and professionalism by the department in keeping with Claremont’s reputation,” the association said.

Two police officers promoted, others introduced

Tuesday evening also saw the promotions of two Claremont police officers to the rank of corporal—Jeff Ting and Erik Orozco.

Corporal Ting is currently the president of the Claremont Police Officer’s Association (CPOA). He has been with the department since 2003 when he was first hired as a police aide. Corporal Ting is part of the AB109 task force, captain of the CPD’s Baker-to-Vegas team and speaks fluent Mandarin, Chief Shelly Vander Veen said.

Corporal Orozco has been with the CPD since 2005, working patrol for 12 years before earning a special assignment with the detective bureau, Chief Vander Veen said. He is a chemical agent specialist, a CPR trainer, a field training officer and speaks fluent Spanish.

Two new police aides, Valentino Galvez Jr. and Rachel Straight, were introduced Tuesday night. Police aide Alyssa Flores was promoted to jailer, and Kiara Hernandez was introduced as the department’s newest dispatcher.

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