- Police union wants L.A. to restore overtime instead of hiring more officers
- Flint Lays Off Almost 25% Of Police Department
- Political Battle Rages After Newark Lays Off 14 Percent Of Police Force
- Things Heat Up In Omaha Fire Union President’s Lawsuit
- Problems In Indianapolis Metro PD
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Police union wants L.A. to restore overtime instead of hiring more officers
From The Los Angeles Times, December 1
LOS ANGELES, CA It came as little surprise this week that the influential union that represents Los Angeles’ rank-and-file police officers waded into the debate over hiring more police during a major financial crisis.
What caught people off guard, however, was the union’s conclusion that the hiring should stop.
Los Angeles Police Protective League President Paul M. Weber, in an interview and an opinion article submitted to The Times, called on the city’s leaders to suspend their current policy of hiring new officers to replace those who resign or retire. It is a stance that, on the surface, runs counter to the union’s traditionally staunch support for a larger police force.
Instead, Weber said, the department should shrink itself in order to use its scarce funds to restore overtime pay that has been cut because of the city’s budget woes and to fill some of the hundreds of civilian posts at the Los Angeles Police Department that have gone vacant.
Police Chief Charlie Beck said the union’s plan would jeopardize public safety. “We’d all like to return to a time where officers are paid for the overtime hours they work,” he said. “But it is not in the interest of public safety to do that” by thinning the ranks of officers.
And Matt Szabo, deputy chief of staff for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, added, “It’s hard to imagine how the union is motivated here by the public’s safety,” noting that the LAPD has pushed down crime significantly in recent years.
The union’s announcement irritated Beck and Villaraigosa and complicated matters for them as they try to convince City Council members to keep police hiring intact despite the city’s ongoing budget crisis. Villaraigosa has staked much of his administration’s reputation on his ability to boost the size of the LAPD, while Beck has warned that a drop in the number of officers would badly hamper his ability to maintain recent declines in crime.
Weber said the mayor’s push to increase the size of the department had deteriorated into a “shell game,” with fewer officers actually doing regular police work. Although Villaraigosa has promised to hire 1,000 officers, budget cuts have caused the department to take hundreds of officers off patrol or detective assignments, either because of reduced overtime hours or to fill in for civilian workers whose jobs have been eliminated, Weber said.
The department’s overtime policy, under which officers must take time off in lieu of being paid for the extra hours, has taken the heaviest toll, sidelining more than 500 officers who would otherwise remain on the job, Weber said. He also pointed to a department report that found about 150 cops are currently being used either part- or full-time to perform civilian administrative jobs. Another 88 officers are expected to be assigned to a new jail facility because the city cannot afford to hire jailers.
“The public was sold on this idea that their tax money would be used to put more officers on the streets, who would keep them safe,” Weber said. “But the reality is that’s not happening.”
Instead of continuing to hire officers, Weber said, the department should determine the “core number” of officers it needs to adequately respond to a major incident such as an earthquake and shrink the department to that size. The savings, he said, could then be used by the chief to pay officers to work overtime and hire people to fill critical civilian positions. The loss of overtime pay has been a significant blow for officers, some of whom lost as much as a third of their income.
Beck dismissed Weber’s idea as a “red herring” that doesn’t add up. The union’s claim that a halt to police hiring would free up enough money to pay for overtime and hire civilians was false, Beck said.
He pointed to the roughly 200 new officers the department is scheduled to hire by the end of June, the close of the current fiscal year. If the department did as the union suggests and froze those plans, it would save about $2.2 million, Beck said. By contrast, the department would have to spend about $40 million in the same period if it once again began paying cash for overtime, he said.
The union plan “doesn’t get us anywhere close to being able to do what they want,” Beck said. “The league isn’t in a position to decide how to run the department.”
Councilman Dennis Zine, a retired police officer who has served on the union’s board of directors, said he and his colleagues are in a quandary over LAPD staffing. Council members do not want to back away from their commitment to hire officers but are frustrated to hear sworn officers are performing duties that could be done more cheaply with civilian employees, Zine said. “Are we going to continue hiring … regardless of how they’re deployed?” Zine asked. “Or are we going to come down to a reality check?”
Councilman Bernard Parks, who has long favored a halt to police hiring, called the union’s statement “remarkable and late in coming” but did not expect it would make the council change course. Council members frequently complain about reductions in civilian staffing, he said, but then move ahead with new classes of recruits at the Police Academy anyway.
“I made the recommendation recently that we not hire any more classes and we hold that money for civilian positions,” Parks added. “And that [proposal] keeps going into a dark hole.”
The recent debate over police hiring stretches back to the 2005 mayoral campaign, when Villaraigosa promised to add 1,000 officers to the LAPD. Once in office, he secured the money to pay for those additional hires by convincing the City Council to triple the trash collection fees.
Roughly 800 officers were added to the force, but as the economy flat-lined and the city faced a growing budget deficit, the council balked at continuing the hiring spree. Villaraigosa relented and agreed to a compromise to hire only enough officers to maintain the current total of 9,963 officers. In place of the promise to add 1,000 new officers, Villaraigosa instead began touting a goal of expanding the force to 10,000 cops.
It is a target that Weber said has been a distraction. “We all know that was a number that was pulled out of the air for political reasons, so let’s get away from it,” he said.
Flint Lays Off Almost 25% Of Police Department
From The Flint Journal, November 30
FLINT, MI Twenty Flint police officers were issued layoff notices this afternoon following stalled negotiations between the city and police union, officials said.
The pink slips essentially put the 20 officers on notice they could be laid off in two weeks, leaving the city with 67 police officers not including lieutenants, sergeants, captains and the chief, said police Officer Keith Speer, president of the police officers’ union.
Speer said he’s not sure how the department will effectively operate if the layoffs go into effect.
“We can’t operate now,” he said. “I can’t even predict what’s going to happen.”
Police Chief Alvern Lock could not immediately be reached for comment.
Flint Mayor Dayne Walling had warned the layoff notices would go out this month if each of the city’s six unions didn’t reach some form of double-digit concessions to help ease the city’s projected $5 million deficit.
The firefighters union has been the only group to reach a tentative agreement on concessions, and its members are expected to finish voting on the measure tonight.
Speer said the police officers offered to pay more for their pensions and health care and give up some holiday pay and other measures, in return for some early retirement incentives. He said their offer of concessions was not accepted by the city.
“Anything we suggest they put a kabbash on,” Speer said. “That’s not negotiating.”
Walling said earlier today that the city will continue to have informal talks with the three police unions about a tentative agreement.
“I remain hopeful we can reach an agreement with at least one of the three groups before layoffs would actually go into effect,” Walling said. Speer said the police officers will continue to do their best on the job.
“We do arrest a lot of people,” he said. “There are a lot of bad guys out there and we do make arrests.”
Police Sgt. Rick Hetherington, president of the sergeants union, said this afternoon that he was not aware of any sergeants getting layoff notices. He said he wasn’t sure yet how officer layoffs could affect the sergeants.
“Any layoffs, of course, are damaging,” he said.
Political Battle Rages After Newark Lays Off 14 Percent Of Police Force
From CBSlocal.com, November 30
NEWARK, NJ There is concern and worry in New Jerseys largest city.
Newark residents were wondering Tuesday if their streets were safe after 14 percent of the citys police officers were laid off, CBS 2s Pablo Guzman reports.
The mayor of Newark and his police director said even with 167 officers laid off, people will not notice a difference on the street.
Newark residents should know that tonight. We will have virtually the same amount of people, on patrol. As we had last night. And the night before, Mayor Cory Booker said.
But that answer was not giving the citizens comfort.
The criminals are sitting back, saying, Oh boy. I like this. I like this! resident Emma Montgomery said.
I dont think its a good idea because then violence increases because as theyre laying off police officers, theyre also laying off other people, and what do they turn to? They turn to violence, added resident Morolake Rami Johnson.
One man said things in Newark are so bad, he did not want to give his last name.
Taking out those cops has made Newark a difficult place to live. Even we have them, and were having problems, Thomas told Guzman.
The Guardian Angels said they would patrol Tuesday night to take up the slack. Booker said that was news to him, but Police Director Garry McCarthy welcomed the help.
Im absolutely crushed, McCarthy said, describing what it was like to hand out the pink slips.
McCarthy insisted that man power on the streets of Newark would not change and that the layoffs would not prompt a surge in crime.
Im really confident in our commanders. Im really confident in the people that we have and were going to get the job done, McCarthy told 1010 WINS Glenn Schuck.
While police officers werent allowed to comment, the union was asked to accept a one-time salary deferral, overtime cap or unpaid leave days, something the union saw as a violation of their contract.
Fraternal Order of Police President Derrick Hatcher said there is a contract that should protect cops from being laid off. He wants Booker to admit that when the mayor signed it, Booker knew the money would run out and he would have to lay people off.
The mayor should put on his big boy pants and say hey, you know it was an error made by this administration. Im willing to take it on the chin, Hatcher said.
But the mayor said the budget gap would have been closed if the union agreed to what amounted to $1,500 in concessions per officer. According to the mayor, the layoffs were necessary to save $9.5 million and help close an $83 million budget gap, CBS 2?s Magee Hickey reported.
These layoffs were entirely avoidable. These layoffs couldve been stopped at any moment by the union leadership. We couldve cut the layoffs in half or a fraction if the union leadership was willing to do something in partnership with the city, Booker said.
Today is a very frustrating day for me, Booker said. They were unwilling to fulfill any of that gap!
So the mayor said the union had a chance to save jobs, but did not negotiate fairly. The union said that the mayor signed a contract knowing that he would have no money to pay cops down the road. And so, we have a standoff.
The mayor said cameras, better community relations, and better management of resources will make up for the 167 cops laid off.
Things Heat Up In Omaha Fire Union President’s Lawsuit
From KETV.com, November 24
OMAHA, NE David Nabity and the Omaha Alliance for the Private Sector asked a judge Wednesday to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought by the head of the Omaha Firefighters Union.
Nabity also filed a counterclaim, alleging union President Steve LeClair broke Nebraska law by filing the suit.
LeClair sued earlier this month, alleging Nabity defamed him during a radio interview.
During the interview over a state auditor’s report on fire department finances, Nabity said LeClair had committed “theft by deception” in how he handled work hours and vacation time.
In papers filed Wednesday with the Douglas County District Court, Nabity argued LeClair is a public figure, so he’ll have to prove Nabity acted with malice during the radio interview.
Nabity said he did not.
Nabity also argued his interview comments were opinion, not fact. Therefore, he said, they are protected by the First Amendment.
Nabity’s counterclaim argued in the context of an interview, his statements “could not be taken for an assertion that (LeClair) had committed the criminal offense of theft by deception.”
The State Auditor’s report blasted the Fire Department for payroll records so incomplete, a full audit could not be conducted.
In his counterclaim, Nabity said LeClair’s defamation lawsuit was filed for the purpose of harassing, or inhibiting Nabity’s right to free speech, and Nabity now seeks damages and attorney’s fees from LeClair.
And in a second counterclaim, Nabity argued LeClair abused the discovery process by seeking all communications between city employees and Nabity’s group, the Omaha Alliance for the Private Sector.
Nabity said LeClair also sought communications between the group and the news media, as well as payroll records and tax filings by OAPS.
Problems In Indianapolis Metro PD
From The Indianapolis Star, November 22
INDIANAPOLIS, IN Fewer than 17 percent of Indianapolis Metro police officers said they have high morale and even less say they have the support of their commanders.
Those are the results of a Fraternal Order of Police survey released today. The union polled its entire 1,865 membership and received responses from 1,080 officers.
The questions on morale and command leadership show a steep decline since the last poll in 2008 when 65 percent of the IMPD officers said they have high morale and 49 percent said the commanders were behind them.
The results appear to lend credibility union officials claims of eroding officer morale because of discontent with Public Safety Director Frank Straub and Chief Paul Ciesielski. The union has claimed Straub and Ciesielski are introducing reforms in the department without their consultation and have taken unduly harsh discipline against some officers accused of misconduct.
Only 5.7 percent of the officers said they have the support of Ciesielski and 3.4 percent said they have the support of Straub.
In contrast, 85.1 percent of the officers said they have the support of their immediate supervisors in their day-to-day job duties.
Deputy Public Safety Director Carolin Requiz Smith said nether Straub nor Ciesielsi would comment on the survey results. FOP President Bill Owensby could not be reached immediately for comment.