SAN JOSE (KCBS) – How much should police officers in San Jose be taking home over the next three years? That’s the question at the heart of a debate between the San Jose Police Officers Association and city leaders.

The San Jose POA is starting negotiations with the city by asking for a 16 percent raise over the next three years. Union President Jim Unland said it’s all about retaining officers in the wake of 10 percent pay cuts.

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“We’ve had 140+ officers leave this department in the last two years,” Unland said. “The exodus is continuing. We know other officers that are continuing to look for other places to work and that are taking other assignments.”

Most city leaders admit the issue of compensation isn’t easy. But Councilman Sam Liccardo said it is simple.

“When we don’t have the money, we can’t pay more,” Liccardo said.

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While the city budget is heading back to the black, Liccardo said 16 percent raises are out of the question. He suggests one-time bonus payments to keep some key officers from leaving.

“Those who are relatively experienced at the top step of their pay ladder that we could supplement with an incentive of a few percent to keep them on board,” he said.

The issue is likely to go to arbitration in the next few months.

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