Detroit city officials, police reach new contract deal with pay raises
Detroit — Two of Detroit's three police unions have reached tentative agreements with the city that would give cops an immediate $10,000 annual raise, with 4% annual increases each year for the next four years.
Members of the Detroit Police Officers Association and Detroit Lieutenants and Sergeants Association are expected to vote within a week on the $25 million proposal, which Mayor Mike Duggan said Friday would be paid for by "expected tax revenues."
"In the nine years I’ve been mayor, this is one of the very happiest days I’ve had," Duggan said during a Friday press conference at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters.
If ratified, the deal would bump starting officers' annual salaries from $43,000 to $53,000, which Duggan said would "make us competitive with other area police departments."
The increase would give Detroit cops a higher starting yearly salary than officers who start at $49,346 in Sterling Heights, $51,861 in Warren and $44,160-$54,355 in Southfield. It also would be higher than the starting salary of $51,783 in Grand Rapids, Michigan's second-most populous city.
But it would still trail the beginning annual salary of $57,449 in Livonia.
Under the proposal, sergeants and lieutenants would see immediate $10,000-$11,000 annual pay increases.
Sgt. William Anderson of the Gaming Unit, a 35-year veteran of the department, called the proposed contract "one of the greatest things that's ever happened in my career."
"I think the efforts of our union and department leadership in putting this contract together exemplify what we stand for as a department, which is taking care of each other," Anderson said.
Duggan also expressed hope that the proposed contract would help stem the exodus of almost one officer per day in 2022, including 72 Detroit cops who left the department in August and September — "two-thirds of them to suburban police departments," he said.
Police Chief James White called the tentative agreement "historic" and said the extra money will help fill 300 vacant positions.
"I've always said we have the best police department in the country, and with this tentative deal, we're treating them as such," White said. The details of the proposed contract have leaked out in recent days, prompting officers who'd left the department to request a return, he said.
"As of (Thursday), I've had five officers who'd left for suburban police departments hand-walk letters to my office requesting to return to DPD," White said.
Last month, The Detroit News reported the city's police department loses about one officer every day to a suburban counterpart.
According to The News' analysis, the department has lost more than 220 sworn officers since January, or an average of about 28 per month. Last year, 103 police officers left the department with about half taking jobs with another police department in suburban Detroit and others joining agencies outside of Metro Detroit.
But nonmonetary factors have played a role in officer departures. One reason some officers leave is the "lack of respect" Detroit officers often encounter, said Steve Dolunt, a former Detroit Police assistant chief who retired in 2017.
"You arrest someone, and they get right back out because judges are giving low or no bonds," Dolunt told The News in August. "You've got people spitting on you, antagonizing you, egging you on, while someone else is filming you with their cellphone. People are getting in the officers' faces and saying, 'If you arrest me, I'll be back out tomorrow.'
"A lot of officers are saying, 'Screw it, I'll go to work in the suburbs, where I can make more money and I don't have to deal with all that crap,'" he said. "Can you really blame them?"
Sgt. Adam Borkowski of Crime Scene Services believes the pay increases would make DPD "competitive with the other departments, and hopefully, that means more officers will stay here."
On Friday, homicide Lt. Barbara Kozloff said she was going to retire when her 25th anniversary with the department came in three months — "but now, I'm reconsidering."
"I had planned on being gone when my 25 years were up, but (the new contract proposal) is making me rethink that," Kozloff said.
The union contracts expired June 30, but city and police officials agreed to continue working until a new deal could be reached. The department's third union, the Command Officer's Association, is still negotiating its contract.
If ratified, the deal would require City Council approval.
One provision in the proposal would allow the department to take lateral transfers from other police departments, paying a four-year veteran officer a minimum starting annual salary of $73,000, as opposed to the $43,000 experienced officers are paid when they transfer, which is the same pay as rookies with no experience.
A second proposed provision would allow the city to recoup the costs of training recruits if they leave for other police departments. City and police officials for years have lamented that recruits often take advantage of the free training Detroit offers officers through its Police Academy and then leave for other police departments.
"One of the things I resent is that some departments have taken advantage of our academy system, because Detroit is one of the few departments that don't charge for training," Duggan said. "We've had other departments tell recruits, 'Don't tell them you're coming to us, but go through the academy and let them pay for it.' I deeply resent it, and I'm really glad we have an agreement that will help us recoup some of those losses."
Details of how the city would enforce that plan, including how long a Detroit cop must stay on the force before moving to another department without being charged for training, are contingent on pending state legislation, Duggan said.
Duggan said he couldn't tap federal COVID-19 relief funds to pay for officer raises "because that runs out in 2024. ... This will be paid for entirely by the growth in income tax revenue that’ll be there in the next five years," the mayor said.
Duggan said when Detroit entered bankruptcy, "the state passed a law that said the city can't spend more than what a revenue estimating panel says is available. The way Detroit got into the bankruptcy is that they spent money (that wasn't there)."
The panel, which includes a University of Michigan economist and State Treasurer Rachael Eubanks, ruled in February that the city's income tax revenue was $316 million, Duggan said.
"In February, I thought they were wrong because we'd seen a significant rise in income tax revenues," the mayor said. "On Sept. 12 the panel issued a new report and raised the annual estimates for the next five years by $35-40 million a year. That's the result of all the construction going on ... those construction workers are paying taxes.
"This was always the plan — that the city income tax revenues would have to carry this (raise)," Duggan said.
Staff Writer Mike Martindale contributed.