Top L.A. police union official tells cops to go ‘somewhere that understands your worth’

With negotiations over a new salary contract dragging on last month, the Los Angeles Police Protective League’s vice president, Jerretta Sandoz, hopped on Facebook to speak her mind.

In a comment that was apparently later deleted, the union leader for more than 9,000 LAPD officers laid out what she saw as the hardships of being a cop in L.A.: hostile City Council members, a ban on displaying the “thin blue line” flag and the lack of a “great” contract.

Sandoz advised departing LAPD officers to find jobs in communities where the political leadership “understands your worth.”

“Go somewhere that respects the work you do and you don’t have to beg for a great contract,” she wrote, according to a screenshot of the post that was reviewed by The Times. “Go somewhere that has a city council or city manager that openly acknowledges the great work you do, go somewhere that doesn’t have Two or more City Council members who hate you (no exaggeration).”

The post, written a few weeks before the expiration of the LAPD’s contract on June 30, raised eyebrows among some inside the department, who questioned why a high-ranking union official — venting or not — would endorse the departure of cops at a moment when the LAPD is hemorrhaging officers. The number of officers dropped to 9,027 last week, down roughly 1,000 compared to 2019.

Last week, LAPD officials told the Board of Police Commissioners they see a trend of officers leaving for other law enforcement agencies, with 43 departures in the last fiscal year compared to 12 during the same span in 2017-18, according to department figures. Police Commissioner Erroll Southers responded by calling the numbers “very, very discouraging.”

Mayor Karen Bass has called for the department to replenish its ranks, proposing a budget that takes the force back up to 9,500. The last 10 Police Academy classes have included, on average, about 30 graduating officers — well under the number needed to reach the mayor’s hiring goal.

Bass spokesperson Zach Seidl, when asked about Sandoz’s Facebook message, said negotiations over the LAPD contract are ongoing.

“The mayor’s No. 1 job is to keep Angelenos safe,” he said. “She remains concerned about the number of officers retiring and her budget reflects that concern.”

Sandoz, for her part, called her social media post “much ado about nothing.”

“My comments were part of a larger online thread about officers who stated they already decided to leave the LAPD,” she said. “And I stand by every word I wrote to those who decided, or are strongly considering leaving the LAPD for another agency.”

In a follow-up email to The Times, Sandoz said she hopes the department makes “improvements” and that officers choose to stay with the LAPD, while adding that the “criteria I advise officers to evaluate when they are choosing to work for another agency is, in many respects, the same criteria officers are using to determine if they are going to stay with the LAPD.”

Police Chief Michel Moore has blamed the decrease in the number of officers, in part, on perceived anti-police sentiments that grew after the law enforcement killings of George Floyd and other Black Americans in recent years. He also pointed to a severe backlog of background investigations that keeps potential recruits waiting months for a spot in the academy.

The department has been laying plans to award $15,000 signing bonuses and other incentives for new officers.

Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian said last week he was hopeful a new union contract would help address the LAPD’s recruitment and retention problems. He said a proposed contract deal could be reached by August, when the council returns from its summer break.

Despite the despairing tone of Sandoz’s social media post, a spokesperson for the union offered an upbeat assessment of the ongoing contact talks last week. Union spokesperson Tom Saggau told The Times there has been “substantial progress” in coming up with a deal to address recruitment and retention.

The LAPD union has taken note of agreements reached in other cities, particularly ones that offer substantial signing bonuses to newly hired officers.

Sandoz’s mention of the “thin blue line” flag appears to be a reference to Moore’s decision in January to prohibit the flag, which had been widely displayed in station lobbies around the city, from appearing in public view.

The flag’s supporters view it as a symbol of solidarity with police officers who have lost their lives on the job. Detractors say it has been appropriated by right-wing extremist groups.

An Instagram post in January by another top league official, Jamie McBride, was critical of Moore. It marked a public break between the chief and the union, which did not take an official position on Moore’s reappointment, also in January. LAPD insiders say that fissure has only widened behind the scenes in recent weeks, amid problems of officer morale and heavy workloads.

Those insiders, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal matters, said Sandoz may have simply been venting in her post and conceded that urging officers to leave for supposed greener pastures is a common bargaining tactic. But they also questioned the timing — and the wisdom — of making such a statement when the department is already struggling to recruit and retain officers.

The portion of Sandoz’s post that mentioned “City Council members who hate you” appears to refer to Eunisses Hernandez and Hugo Soto-Martinez, two council members who regularly vote against spending proposals at the LAPD. Hernandez did not respond to an inquiry by The Times and Soto-Martinez declined to comment on Sandoz’s post.

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