Denver’s police pay raise cut unlike many other big cities

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Denver Police Department vehicle

A Denver Police Department vehicle is seen in this file photo. (KDVR)

DENVER (KDVR) – Denver’s recent police union contract vote stands out among many big cities. More of the country’s 20 largest cities have decided to keep police raises in union contracts than cut them in recent months.

Denver City Council members voted 8-5 on Monday to reject an agreement between the city representatives and the police union on how to fund officer salaries over the next two years, prompting backlash from both Mayor Michael Hancock and the union.

Police union president Detective Nick Rogers says they will now go to arbitration.

The Denver City Council made this decision in a moment of national calls for police reform following the death of George Floyd in May.

Beset by reform protests and a pandemic-driven recession, twice as many big cities have cut police budgets than left them alone. Of the largest 20 U.S. cities, eight have already cut police budgets, while only four have kept them stable or increased them.

The rest, including Denver, are looking at police cuts but have not yet passed budgets.

Police budgets and policy reforms, however, are separate from the union contracts that police reformers claim shield police from accountability and inflate pay.

The Denver City Council’s actions put it in front of other large cities who have either not yet renegotiated police union contracts or have renewed them with scheduled pay raises.  

Denver, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, San Jose, Ft. Worth, Seattle, and the District of Columbia have renegotiated or will negotiate this fall.  

Most of those cities, so far, have kept officer pay raises.

Nationally, more of the 20 largest U.S. cities are keeping police pay as is, including scheduled raises. Philadelphia, San Antonio, and Fort Worth each adopted new police union contracts with pay raises, while San Jose’s new contract allows for compensation talks later on.

Only San Francisco and Chicago have so far cut pay raises from police contracts.

San Francisco’s police agreed to waive their scheduled raise until 2022. Chicago only applied pay cuts to police management instead rank-and-file officers who are still at the negotiation table.

Other cities such as Los Angeles and Houston are renewing contracts this year but expected not to cut police wages or halt raises.

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