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August 20, 2010

Crazy in Suburbia: Police Managers and Officers Mad as Hell--or Very Frustrated--by State of Public Safety Funding in Walnut Creek

This column is also posted on Walnut Creek Patch: On Tueday, the Walnut Creek City Council Wednesday unanimously approved a two-year agreement with police managers that calls for a freeze on their salaries and asks sergeants, lieutenants and captains to increase their employee contributions into the CalPERS retirement system from 0 percent to 7 percent.

In adopting this agreement with the Police Management Association, council members were effusive in their praise and gratitude. Council member Kish Rajan said: "This is a tremendous showing of leadership on the part of the police management association. The police have emblazoned on their patrol cars, "Working together to benefit our community." Their contribution to the financial health of the city is an example of them working together to benefit the community."

Some in the police department believe the city is taking advantage of their "contribution" and is sacrificing the welfare of public safety to projects such as the new library and refurbishing the city's pools.

Those in the PD not satisfied with the current state of affairs are airing their concerns on online message boards and on a new website, purportedly established by Walnut Creek police managers and officers. These statements come as the city council race gets underway.

In a response to the Walnut Creek Pach article on the council adopting the agreement, someone commenting noted that the department has lost nine positions due to budget cuts. The city says it has avoided laying anyone off in the department by not filling those positions.

On Friday, the Contra Costa Times reported the existence of a new website, "backed by police officers and managers" that criticizes public safety funding in Walnut Creek, and blasts the city council for cuts to police.

The website, The Future of Public Safety in Walnut Creek, says it offers information about cuts to public safety funding that is either under reported or not reported at all. On the home page, the publishers of the site say: "We find ourselves facing increases in the demand for police services with fewer officers, equipment and resources."

"City leaders are also imposing significant cuts to police salaries and benefits that will impact the current and future face of public safety in our community," it continues. "These cuts are being forced on employees as city leaders try to convince both employees and the public that we are in a budget crisis. The truth is current and former council members created this crisis. At the same time city leaders are blaming the police department for budget woes they are spending freely on new projects, buildings and programs. They also continue to subsidize numerous groups and organizations while making only token cuts."

The site takes particular aim at the new Walnut Creek library--an ongoing sore point for some in town. The site resurrects questions about the wisdom of building the library in the first place, pointing out that Walnut Creek resident twice rejected tax measures supporting it. "It is now clear the millions invested in the library have played a large role in the declining budget dollars for police funding," the site says.

The site also responds to questions about whether Walnut Creek already spends too much on police services and can make do with fewer officers, and whether the retirement deal officers receive is fair or in line with what police officers in other cities receive.

Councilman Bob Simmons told the Times he "disagrees" with the site's premise that the council has any disregard for public safety, while Assistant City Manager Lorie Tinfow "said some things stated on the site as fact are inaccurate -- for example, the claim that the department has fewer police officers than it did 20 years ago."

21 comments:

CC Times Reader said...

The CC Times quoted Assistant City Manager Lorie Tinfow as saying, “some things stated on the site as fact are inaccurate — for example, the claim that the department has fewer police officers than it did 20 years ago.”

Ms. Tinfow must be using that “new math” in that it has already been well reported that WCPD currently has four “frozen” police officer positions and are expecting a fifth at the end of the year. Additional vacant positions include two police dispatchers, one civilian police manager and one police services officer.

We must also remember former City Manager Mike Parness, a well respected financial mastermind, was let go when he was critical of the council’s choice to build a library they couldn’t afford. I wonder if Tinfow just so happens to be an applicant for the vacant city manager position (Due to Porkorny’s pending retirement) and she wants us to think the PD is fully staffed?

Gee…. maybe she has a vested interest in keeping the council happy? Could she be an at-will employee also, a politician, in addition to looking for a promotion? I’m guessing she learned a lesson from Parness and has decided to tow the company line.

Frozen positions are a matter of public record. Perhaps she should check her own city records before making a comment. What else has the city fudged numbers on?

Jojo Potato said...

What a hoot! I'm supposed to be sympathetic for the poor guys who have to retire at 57? Pretty old when you "consider the physical nature of police work". Like sitting on your butt in the office or in the police car parked in the red zone outside city hall?

This just kills me, there are a lot of people doing a lot of more dangerous jobs in this country with a lot less salary and pensions.

Sorry boys, the freebies are over. You can contribute to your pension and you will still be way ahead of the rest of us. How about getting off of your high horse and realizing you are just employees like the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

Lorie Tinfow needs to get her facts straight. There are indeed less officers in WC now than 1986. Since then, the City Council has authorized staffing increases of only a few officers, and now all those positions are frozen and more. If there's a vacancy, such as retirement or a resignation, Chief Bryden has to now go beg the city staff to replace the officer.

Politics being what they are, it would not surprise me now that this information is public that upper management and council may want to punish the cops by cutting funding even MORE, as much disdain as they have for public safety. While publicly stating "we love our police" and "we support our police" their actions speak louder.

Nobody is saying other city projects are not necessary or important in their own right. Nobody at the PD complained about funding a new library, it was complaining about the monstrous size and scope of this library. The voters didn't approve it 3 times. City Manager Mike Parness was critical of the size and was fired forthwith as has been stated before.

Are Arts and Rec programs important to a community? Of course they are. But spending over 20% of your entire city budget on it is absurd, and fiscally irresponsible in these times. The City Council has opted to fully fund the Monster Library over the objections of its constituents and its own staff, and continued pet projects unfettered. Now they have approved a go ahead to spend $21 million on replacing and improving the pool at Heather Farm Park.

The sheer arrogance of this council is astounding. Until the residents of WC understand this and vote them out, past practices will continue.

I applaud the police for taking the high road, and just reporting the facts.

Burble said...

I just want a little editorial balance here. In the text that follows, I don't intend to recount all of the damage caused by the Council's grotty, deceitful perversions but I do want to point out that history has proven beyond any doubt that I'll bet you a dollar to a doughnut that the Council will create a climate in which it will be assumed that our achievements reflect not individual worth, talent, or skill, but special consideration some day. I'll say that again because I want it to sink in: Its indifference only adds to the problem. Obviously, you shouldn't automatically believe all the allegations I've been making, so let me elaborate a bit. If we look beyond the Council's delusions of grandeur, we see that difficult times lie ahead. Fortunately, we have the capacity to circumvent much of the impending misery by working together to lead the Council out of a dream world and back to hard reality. Does anybody else feel the way I do, or am I alone in my disgust with the Council?

AKA Soccer Mom said...

According to the draft 2010-12 budget (pie chart attached to this post) the city spends 35 percent on police, 21 percent on public services, and 20 percent on arts, recreation and community services. In this post on Crazy in Suburbia, Police Chief Joel Bryden said that he believed that public safety was the city's No. 1 priority. http://crazyinsuburbia.blogspot.com/2010/05/police-chief-believes-public-safety-is.html

Anonymous said...

Jojo Potato,

No one is asking for your sympathy. And trying to compare police managers to the public sector is like comparing apples to oranges. Were asking to be treated the same as our counterparts in Concord, PH, Martinez (and the majority of PD's in the state). Concord PD's new contract includes paying into their retirement, but not nearly as much as WC's forced new contract. That is one of the complaints.

As for early retirement, YES, very fortunate that were able to retire at 57. Part of that is like you said, because it's not as easy to wrestle on the ground with drunk or high 20 year olds, as you get older. BUT also because of the sacrifices officers have made the past 30 years when it comes to working on holidays, during the night, responding TOWARDS vs AWAY to things that no human should ever have to view. The divorces, the missed little league games, baptisms, birthdays, etc. You name it, it's been sacrificed. Once again, I/We don't want your sympathy, we just wish the WC city council would appreciate us and follow through with past promises that we deserve to make what our counterparts make in adjoining towns.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:19 sounds like you should be applying for a job at any of the adjoining towns.

And please spare us your whining, there are plenty of other jobs working equally physical and on holidays and night hours without the benefit of early retirement.

This is simply a union trying to use its power to get more benefits for its members.

I think we should all have a look back at Ronald Reagan in 1981 and how he dealt with unhappy public servants.

Not voting for Silva said...

Sounds to me that the issue is not so much what the cops make. While nobody enjoys a pay cut, they make a good wage and benefits for a tough job, even after the cuts on their new contract. I think even they would agree.

More to the crux of the matter I believe, is the City Council's continued arrogance of being hellbent on getting the monster Library only THEY wanted, pushing it through after two separate funding measures to the voters failed, spending all their cash in the good years on other controversial public projects, and NOW, after all this, they want to spend ANOTHER $21 million on a swimming pool complex. Meanwhile, public safety staffing goes down, and other city services are cut as well (well except for $12 million for things such as senior citizens to make clay pots at the park). Some will argue that spending gobs of cash on things such as arts and rec make WC a better place to live over other cities. While a valid point, these things are luxuries for when times are financially good. Seems like that is what the website is about way more than salaries and pensions.

And you thought political arrogance only happened in Sacramento and Washington!

Anonymous said...

Why is it that unions (including police unions) are 100 percent in the democrat party's camp?

Is it because they think democrats will give them more money? Does this mean that your vote is for sale?

If so, what else is for sale? Your honor? Your patriotism? When does the auction start?

Anonymous said...

10:56 - I think you are sort of right. The issue raised on the police website is about more than just salaries and benefits. It is saying that there is an inadequate number of police on the force to protect the public (because the City Council has not dedicated a large enough perecentage of the budget to police). But, given the huge cost of police salaries + benefits - do you think the average Walnut Creek resident wants to shut down libraries (even expensive ones), parks, pools, trails, roads, etc so we can pay for even more police officers at their current large cost? Or do you think the police are saying they are willing to give up some of their individual salaries and beneits in exchange for getting more police officers, if that is indeed needed to keep the peace?

JWB said...

3:18PM I would agree with your posting but want to point out that you call it a "police website". It is a website of a so far unknown Police group, without any disclosure who they actually represent and who their membership are. From reading on the website. it seems clear to me that they want to appear like an official Police website, which is misleading to say the least. To me it seams more the work of a bunch of angry TeaParty like types, maybe with some friends in the WCPD using this look-a-like Police cover to conduct politics in this town.
There is nothing wrong with an open exchange of ideas and certainly Police officers as private citizens have the same right to participate as anybody else in this discussion but using a Police look-a-like front for it seems sneaky and wrong to me.

AKA Soccer Mom said...

I have been told that this website represents the viewpoints of most if not all police managers and officers, save for the chief of police.

JWB said...

AKA SM I don't think it makes a difference. Just figure what would happen if as an employee of AOL you opened a website made to look like it would be an official AOL website and post your political views on it?

I can't see how as an employee you would be allowed to talk on behalf of your employer (or made it look like you talk on behalf of your employer) without authorization. I certainly know that I'm not.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1031, not sure where you get whining out of my statement, but whatever. The cities I mentioned do all of their supervisory/manager hiring in house, WC included, so unless someone who's worked their entire career trying to climb the ladder, wants to go back to being the least senior officer, "applying for a job at any of the adjoining towns" is not an option.

And your quote about the union shows your ignorance as to the "power" the WC POA and PMA have.

No where on any of the comments, website or Facebook page does ANYONE suggest striking like the airtraffic controllers, so once again, educate yourself before you start to spew.

JWB,
The WC police officers are part of the POLICE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION and the Sgts, Lts and Capts are part of the POLICE MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION. The two groups agreed to come together to share their perspective and call the one group the WC POLICE ASSOCIATION (WCPA). The WCPA is strictly a name that both groups agreed upon. Let me assure you that both groups also voted and approved the release of the website and Facebook page, and that this has nothing to do with a few rogue officers or teaparty type mentality personnel. It's 100% WCPD employees, nothing sneaky or claiming something they're not.

Anonymous said...

The lame library supporters have been offended! Now they'll join the fat slobs that couldn't make it as cops, the kook jealous pension haters and the criminals to demonize the "overpaid" cops. Hopefully the distraction won't work and the real problem addressed here-the council's screwed up priorities-will get attention. Don't kid yourself, the council and their buddies raking in city tax dollars have their sh@* together and won't go down without a fight. How we got to making the cops the bad guys while millions are being handed out to political friends and special interest groups I'll never know.

JWB said...

Anon 7:58 thanks for the clarification. So if I understand you correct the WACP is a combination of the WCPOA and WCPMA? I assume also it is the mission statement for both of these organizations to secure the best financial conditions for their members?

Don't you think it would have been fair to state this on the website?

Anonymous said...

JWB...in case you didn't notice, the contracts have already been settled and are in place for the next two years. Nothing can change that. Some things are more important than money.

JWB said...

7:10 I'm not sure whether you are a WCPC employee or not but you are certainly wrong with your statement that this is not about money.

First as you can see from 9:19 and 10:31 who are one and the same person and judging from 10:31 seems to be in clearly in the know stated at 9:19: "we deserve to make what our counterparts make in adjoining towns"


Second when do you think after unions don't get what they want in salary negotiations will they start to shape the city council? In two years when the new contract comes up or now where they might be able to imprint the politics for the next two years?

Not a cop said...

JWB, why not? If electing a ringer worked for the library foundation it can work for the police too!!!

Anonymous said...

JWB...What is the WACP and WCPC? I am confused. I thought we were talking about the WCPA?

Anonymous said...

I'm not clear if the police represent 35 percent of the city's budget ( more than ANY OTHER PART) what the issue is. They want more??

How much overtime is paid to these officers at all levels? Who approves the overtime? The sense of entitlement enrages me. You are PUBLIC servants, you chose this career. Your pay is paid for by OUR taxes. And the last time I looked, the city council was elected by wc citizens who showed up to vote.