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Pending union vote, Tacoma police on track to get big pay boost in 2022

A concrete sign with the words Tacoma Police Department Headquarters sits in front of a glass and brick building.
Ted S. Warren
The Associated Press
The headquarters for the Tacoma Police Department on South Pine Street in Tacoma.

After more than nine months of negotiations, the union representing Tacoma police almost has a new contract.

The Tacoma City Council unanimously approved the three-year collective bargaining agreement during its final regular meeting of the year last week. It includes wage increases for 2021 and 2022 totaling 13.2 percent: 6.1 percent retroactive to Jan. 1, 2021, and another 7.1 percent increase effective after the first of the year. That translates to a cost of more than $3.8 million for 2021 and more than $6.8 million for 2022.

The contract still needs to be ratified. Tacoma Police Union IUPA Local 6 is scheduled to vote on the agreement next week.

Will Hausa was one of two community representatives who participated in the bargaining process from start to finish, something the city calls “unprecedented.”

Hausa told KNKX Public Radio in an interview Monday that other police departments around the region have seen significant pay increases, and the negotiated raises will help Tacoma compete with those local departments.

“They were able to recruit and retain officers at a higher level than the City of Tacoma projected that it would be able to,” Hausa said of other municipalities, noting that the City of Kent has increased officer salaries by 16 percent in one recent budget cycle.

Hausa added that the negotiations around salary were based on data.

“It wasn’t an emotional decision,” he said. "It was calculated.”

In an email statement, a city spokesperson confirmed that the wage hikes were “motivated by the tight labor market” and “comparable jurisdictions.”

“It is also noteworthy that Local 6 members will increase their own employee contributions toward health and welfare benefits,” the statement reads.

The new contract through 2023 also includes reforms that city officials praised as the latest step toward their goal of transforming policing in Tacoma.

John Henry, the city’s labor negotiator, specifically called out the implementation of the policies around body-worn cameras and confirming the process for anonymous citizen complaints. Henry also singled out the removal of language that previously allowed for the purging of discipline from employment files, though that is now required by state law.

Senate Bill 5051, which was approved in a suite of police reforms earlier this year, requires all personnel records for any police officer to be retained for the duration of their employment and at least a decade after. That includes records related to all misconduct complaints, progressive discipline imposed and any records of disciplinary appeals.

Among the details Hausa told KNKX he’s most proud of are changes to the counseling of officers.

Counseling is not considered formal discipline and is not subject to the grievance procedure, according to the contract. But supervisors are required to document any counseling with officers, something Hausa said was not the case before.

“That supervisor could talk to (an officer) and he didn’t really have to document it. It was up to supervisor discretion,” Hausa said.

Hausa said this change increases transparency and accountability, something the community has been calling for in the wake of the March 2020 police killing of Manuel Ellis, a Black man from Tacoma. Three Tacoma officers are charged with murder and manslaughter in his death. An internal investigation is still underway to decide the fate of employment for those officers and others involved. The review of two of the officers is complete, but a recommendation is pending. A decision could be made soon.

Hausa says he’s genuinely proud of the contract the parties agreed on. But he acknowledges there is still more work to do, specifically regarding oversight.

“Our ultimate goal was to achieve community oversight,” Hausa said. “We weren’t able to get that negotiated this negotiating round, but I’m confident that the pieces have been put in place so that in 2023, when we go back to the table, we’ll be able to have honest discussions about oversight for TPD.”

Mayor Victoria Woodards thanked Hausa and Tisha Marie Wosencroft for volunteering their time for months to see the bargaining process through.

“I think that we are better for your participation,” Woodards said ahead of last week’s vote. “Not only does this council owe you a debt of gratitude, not only does this staff owe you a debt of gratitude, but this community owes you a debt of gratitude.”

Woodards, who was re-elected in November, says transforming Tacoma into an anti-racist city is one of her top priorities throughout her next term. She says that includes transforming the Tacoma Police Department, which gets its new chief next month. Avery Moore takes over in the new year after he relocates from Dallas.

Read the proposed contract here.

Kari Plog is a former KNKX reporter who covered the people and systems in Pierce, Thurston and Kitsap counties, with an emphasis on police accountability.