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City, police deal would let Spokane hire 10 officers

A tentative deal Spokane city leaders made this week with the Spokane Police Guild would save 12 police officer positions next year, city administrators said Wednesday.

The guild is the last city union to reach a tentative agreement aimed at making concessions to prevent layoffs. Without the agreement, officials said the department would lose 22 positions. Because of attrition and a hiring freeze, only two of those lost jobs would have been through layoffs.

“I’m very appreciative of both our negotiating team and the union’s for finding a way to help us adjust our major budget challenges for 2010,” Mayor Mary Verner said Wednesday.

If the agreement is ratified by the union’s membership and the Spokane City Council, the city likely will hire 10 officers next year to fill the department’s 20 vacancies, but the department still would have 10 fewer positions than were budgeted for in 2009.

City leaders earlier had expressed pessimism that a deal could be reached in time to save any of the jobs.

“I’m delighted,” Councilman Richard Rush said. “I think that’s wonderful that we can have more officers on the street.”

An attempt to reach guild President Ernie Wuthrich was unsuccessful Wednesday. In a statement released by the city, Wuthrich, a police detective, called the deal “a fair compromise.”

Although city officials expressed relief that the agreement would reduce job losses, it would make the guild the only city bargaining group to face job losses because it didn’t reach the administration’s full concession target.

Details of the agreement have not been released, and Verner declined to say if the proposed contract includes new powers for the city’s police ombudsman. Last month, the Spokane City Council unanimously voted on a nonbinding resolution requesting that Verner negotiate with the guild to give the ombudsman the power to conduct independent investigations into alleged police misconduct.

Verner’s 2010 budget strategy, which was endorsed by the council, is to make up half of the expected $7 million deficit through union concessions.

Also this week, Local 270 of the Washington State Council of County and City Employees voted overwhelmingly in favor of an agreement that ensures no job losses within the union, City Administrator Ted Danek said. He said concessions were approved with about 90 percent support. Local 270 is the city’s largest bargaining group.

The guild’s tentative agreement is a two-year contract. Officials declined to say if the savings will protect the police jobs for the length of the contract or just for next year. They said they would not discuss details of the agreement with the guild or Local 270 until after the deals are discussed with the City Council next week in a private meeting.

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