Police Strike Hits L.A. As Tourist Season Opens

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WITH the added glare - and leverage - of the world spotlight, the Los Angeles Police Department is socking it to Southern California by staging its third, illegal ``cop-out'' in 10 months. At issue is a two-year-old salary dispute that remains unsettled despite the anti-crime campaign rhetoric of incoming Republican Mayor Richard Riordan.

Without a contract or pay raise for 21 months, 45 percent of the daily LAPD force expressed its frustration Monday and Tuesday by calling in ``sick.'' While the policemen returned to their posts later in the week, the incident comes at a vulnerable time. The region's fragile, post-recession tourism season is opening, with a million soccer fans descending on the area to see nine World Cup soccer matches here as well as the July 17 final game.

``The city respects the police and wants to give them a raise and reward them for a job well done,'' Mayor Riordan says. ``But the city is facing its gravest situation since the Great Depression.'' He criticized the Police Protective League (the police union) for refusing a six percent pay raise last month.

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``The money is there,'' counters Danny Staggs, head of the Police Protective League. ``I just think they don't want to sit down and say where the money is.''

The police union wants a $75 million salary package that includes 9 percent raises over three years, plus 2 percent incentive raises to reward good officers, plus a benefits package and retroactive pay. The city has offered a $40 million package of 6 percent raises over three years, plus a 2 percent incentive package, with no retroactive raises.

Riordan says that if negotiations reach an impasse, the city may unilaterally impose the $40 million package. The city's hands are tied, he says, by so-called ``me-too'' clauses in other city contracts, meaning that if the LAPD gets a certain percentage raise, so must members of other city service unions.

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