Denver City Council rejects 2-year contract with police union

It would have guaranteed a raise in 2022 and no paid holidays in 2021. Negotiations will restart and could require an arbitrator.

Denver police officials walk a crime scene where a man was fatally shot by an officer on Monday, Oct. 21, in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

Denver police officials walk a crime scene where a man was fatally shot by an officer on Monday, Oct. 21, in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

staff photos

The Denver City Council said no to an agreement that would have nixed paid holidays for police officers in 2021 and given them two raises in 2022.

Negotiations this summer resulted in what the Hancock administration believed was a decent deal for a city facing a budget crunch. The agreement would have saved taxpayers about $5 million next year by eliminating 10 paid holidays and reducing the city’s contribution to Denver Police Department retirement plans.

But the sticking point for most council members who killed the measure was a guaranteed pay bump of almost 3 percent in 2022. No one knows what the city’s financial posture will look like then, several council members said.

Councilwoman Jamie Torres said the economic outlook “doesn’t look so rosy.” Guaranteeing a raise for police would be “a difficult decision to explain to my staff” and others who are getting furloughed, Torres said.

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The guaranteed raise could come on the backs of other city employees, the vast majority of whom cannot collectively bargain, said Councilman Paul Kashmann.

“As we look off into the future, it’s a pipe dream to think that revenue will miraculously return to pre-pandemic proportions where the money is flowing and we can honor our workforce … with the salaries they deserve,” Kashmann said.

The rejection means the union and government officials will restart negotiations. An independent arbitrator will decide on the contested terms if both sides cannot fully agree, according to the City Attorney’s Office.

Council members who voted for the contract said they were not ready to gamble on arbitration because it could erase the guaranteed $5 million savings and force officials to find the money in other strapped departments.

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“Those cuts will have to come from somewhere else,” Councilman Jolon Clark said.

Councilman Kevin Flynn framed the unpaid holidays as a pay cut. While he would’ve liked to see a one-year contract in uncertain economic times, he said he trusted the union to come back to the negotiating table. The Denver Police Protective Association agreed to do so, in writing, if necessary.

While some council members may have viewed a no-vote on the contract as a way to start shutting off the faucet of law enforcement spending, Councilwoman Robin Kniech said the union has no control over other parts of the DPD budget, like the number of officers hired. Those things get ironed out in the budget process that starts this week.

Council members Torres, Kniech, Kashmann, Stacie Gilmore, Amanda Sandoval, Candi CdeBaca, Amanda Sawyer and Chris Hinds voted against the contract. Council members Clark, Flynn, Debbie Ortega, Chris Herndon and Kendra Black voted for it.

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