Jacksonville police union frustrated with negotiations with Donna Deegan administration

FOP 530 Jacksonville
'She has failed to address the crisis in law enforcement in Jacksonville.'

Jacksonville’s Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is pushing back against what it sees as slow wage negotiations with the Mayor’s Office.

While every labor negotiation is characterized by a back-and-forth between the union and Jacksonville’s government, this one is unique in that the city’s police union wonders if the delay in negotiations amounts to a breach of good faith.

FOP head Randy Reaves sent an email to members this week noting that negotiations were expected to continue on Wednesday, but that after 3 months with the union’s wage proposal, the Mayor’s Office hadn’t offered a counter, which Reaves told his members was “troubling, to say the least.”

The next scheduled meeting is April 12, per Reaves’ email.

In comments to Florida Politics on Tuesday, he amplified that message.

“The Mayor wanted to go back to the table with the FOP early because she indicated we were a priority.  It’s been three months since our first meeting,” Reaves said.

“At our second meeting, almost two months ago, the FOP put a wage proposal on the table backed by credible data. The numbers show that we are vastly underpaid and are unable to effectively retain and recruit employees. The Mayor’s administration indicated they would have a wage proposal for us on March 27, 2024. They called last week to indicate they still did not have a wage proposal ready and now the next meeting is pushed out to April 12, 2024.”

Reaves said the delay has caused concerns.

“The administration’s words about us being a priority lack the urgency we would expect to see. Because the Mayor told us we were a priority, I relayed that information to our police and correctional officers,” Reaves continued.

“Now those same police and correctional officers are calling me asking why they see the Mayor taking care of all her priorities around town and she has failed to address the crisis in law enforcement in Jacksonville. We are truly hopeful this isn’t a sign of a lack of desire to address the pressing issues we face and rather truly a needed period to solidify a legitimate wage offer.”

The local FOP has often complained that Jacksonville’s pay scale leads to officers seeking greener pastures, and a Wage Analysis speaks to that reality, noting that Jacksonville officers make 20% below the state average, and less than officers in other major metros, surrounding areas like St. Johns County, and members of the Florida Highway Patrol.

Without raises, members of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) would be 34% behind the average by 2027.

To that end, JSO seeks a 17% raise for Fiscal Year 2024-25, with 4% hikes in each of the next two years. The hope is that it stabilizes the force.

In the four years ending in 2023, the Department suffered a 15% attrition rate beyond that normally expected with retirements. If that 3.8% rate continues and is coupled with expected retirements, it could lead to a total 25% churn in officers between 2025 and 2027. It costs $150,000 to train each new officer, meaning training costs could near $10 million for replacement forces during that period.

Corrections officers face deeper problems, meanwhile. Their attrition rate was 35% between 2020 and 2023, and JSO could only fill 11 of 40 corrections training spots in its latest class. The average starting pay, which is under $46,000 per year, is well below the $62,818 state average for those jailhouse positions.

To that end, FOP seeks a 20% increase in the first year of the contract and a 10% hike in each of the next two.

Judicial officers face a similar shortfall, with their $42,972 salary 33% less than the average for that category. Staffing is 34% below targets as a result, and the FOP analysis notes that new hires since 2017 are on a 401(a) retirement plan, which is a condition applied to all workers hired since 2017 by the city in the wake of pension reform during the Lenny Curry era that closed the defined benefit plan to new hires.

Buc-ee’s staffers, Walmart cart attendants, and St. Johns County crossing guards all make more than a Duval County Judicial officer would to start.

To that end, the FOP seeks a 17% raise in FY 2024-25, followed by 5% raises the next two years for that category.

The disconnect between the Mayor’s Office and the FOP is somewhat surprising given Mayor Donna Deegan’s position when running for office.

As a candidate, Deegan opened the door to the Florida Retirement System or a “defined benefit” plan as a pension option for police, corrections, and judicial officers.

That seemingly heavy and pricey lift, which some believe would violate the spirit of last decade’s pension reform approved by Tallahassee on the condition of closing the defined benefit pension plan during previous negotiations for salary increases last decade, suggested that the administration wanted to move forward in creating equity for local law enforcement.

And that may still be the case in terms of salary and benefits, but the administration is holding its cards close to the vest.

“The City of Jacksonville values the critical and often dangerous work performed by our first responders,” said spokesperson Phil Perry. “In good faith, we have made substantial progress in the current collective bargaining process. Accordingly, we are diligently working on a fair wage proposal that appropriately recognizes employees and competitiveness in the market while balancing City resources.”

Perry did not offer a timetable for when that proposal may surface, or how close to the union position it may be.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


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  • MH/Duuuval

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    The common coin of the realm is that JSO pays better and has more fun, so the small towns nearby train officers who then go to the big city to advance their careers.

Comments are closed.


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