Police Union President Lashes Out at Villegas for Vote Against Police Pay Hikes

On February 5th,the Santa Ana City Council wrote a $25.6 million blank check to the Santa Ana Police Officers Association (SAPOA) in the form of a new contract, despite having no money in their pockets to approve the largest police pay raise in decades with a vote of 4 to 2.

However, the POA failed to secure the fifth vote necessary to allocate the funds for the contract from longtime Sheriff and police union-backed councilmember Juan Villegas. This pushed their contract to another vote at next Tuesday’s council meeting.

“I’ll always be with you,” Villegas said before voicing disapproval for the new contract.

Villegas’ opposition came as a shock to SAPOA President, Gerry Serrano, who’s been used to counting on Juanito’s vote on everything–from supporting the city’s now defunct ICE contract to opposing police oversight–ever since the POA dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars to elect him in 2016. Needless to say, Serrano is angry.
Last week, Serrano sent a letter to members of the POA, lashed out at  Villegas for opposing his budget-busting multi-million dollar contract (1). In the letter, he explains the courage to do the right thing and the “time to research and press for accurate data.” However, the POA failed to do their own research and homework, which clearly showed in this past council meeting and letter when they couldn’t back their contract with data.
The fact is that our police department does not even have the money to fund the first year of this contract— they are short $1.8 million. A startled Councilmember Jose Solorio asked the Police Chief if they can scale back on overtime to meet this deficit, to which the Chief responded “no”. Despite given a month to prepare, representatives of the POA and SAPD failed to provide  answers to questions regarding the effects of increased pension costs, regional pay ranks, and past salary increases of officers.
The last time SAPD officers received a raise was in 2017, with an increase of approximately 14%, amid a budget shortfall (2). This raise had a detrimental effect on our city budget by increasing our pensions costs, leading city staff to sound the alarms on the city’s financial health. The approval of the new contract, combined with the previous raise, adds to an approximately 27% wage increase within the last decade, with our budget shortfall increasing from $600,000 to $4.8 million.
In the letter, Serrano misleads POA members about the cost of the contract.   He states the contract will cost $4 million per year. But city staff made clear this contract will cost the city $4.3 million the first year, $8.6 million the following, and $12.7 million the third year.
According to city staff, in addition to the $25.6 million cost of the three year contract, the ongoing rate will be $12.5 million per year every year thereafter, and would escalate based on increasing pension costs.
This contract, combined with the ongoing rate will easily lead to a $50.6 million increase in spending on police wages.
There is no illusion in this financial crisis, but the clear reality that our city council and the POA continue leading us to an uncertain financial future.

The best step forward is for the city council to put residents over special interests and rescind their approval of this contract.

Bulmaro "Boomer" Vicente

Bulmaro "Boomer" Vicente

is a Latinx scholar, writer and organizer from Santa Ana. Boomer studied Political Science and Public Policy at UC Berkeley. He has worked on issues surrounding police accountability and housing justice. His work has been featured on NPR, East Bay Express, Breibart (lol), Sacramento Bee, and other outlets.