City reaches tentative agreement with police union to raise pay

The Chico Police Officers Association has reached a tentative agreement with the city that would increase officer pay over the next three years by 10 percent and that would also require the union members to pay a greater share of pension costs. Photo courtesy of the city of Chico.

A tentative agreement between the city and the Chico Police Officers Association aims to increase police pay, lower crime and increase long-term savings.

The Chico Police Department currently ranks 12th among 15 local cities for police pay, according to a city report. The new union contract will increase pay for current officers by 10 percent over three years.

The agreement will also increase the starting salary of new officers. After three years, new officers will make 5 percent more than the current starting pay. City staff hopes that this will attract more officers and ease the burden on the department.

The inability to maintain full staffing has been a problem for the Police Department for a number of years. In 2014, there were about 80 officers, but about 100 is the optimal number for Chico, which has a population of roughly 86,000 people.

“We are losing more officers than we are gaining,” said Mark Orme, city manager. “The more officers we can put on the streets, the more likely we can reduce risks to students.”

Public safety has often been stressed by City Council as the No. 1 priority for city staff to work on improving. According to 2012-2013 crime rates, assault and auto theft were up 75 and 40 percent, respectively.

Safety is on the minds of Chico State students, and some agree that this plan will help to keep them and their fellow Wildcats from harm.

“I believe it’s vital for Chico State students to have a reliable police force,” said Alyssa Amaral, senior at the university. “This deal couldn’t have come at a better time. We need to keep our students and police safe, especially with the rise in crime in Chico.”

In exchange for the pay increase, the Chico Police Officers Association has agreed to pick up 3 percent of city’s pension contribution beginning six months after the agreement is approved and continuing indefinitely. This is projected to keep the city on a path to reducing the deficit.

“The philosophy of the agreement was to give a short-time win to the employees,” Orme said, “but at the same time increase the city’s savings in the long term.”

Michael McClurg can be reached at [email protected] or @michaelmcclurg on Twitter.