Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Chief’s Loss and Ours

I'm not sure everyone understands the depth of the damage done with the most recent contract imposed by the mayor. The effects will be lasting and the damage deep. One of the little talked about cuts affects the Chief's. Chief's are "At will" employees and not afforded Civil Service protections. Chief's are considered "Management" and are covered by separate contracts and not included in the bargaining unit of employees represented by the POA. When a Captain is tapped to promote to an Assistant Chief's position, he/she takes a leave of absence from the Captain position and accepts an appointment to Assistant Chief.

The mayor imposed drastic and soon to be shown illegal changes to the DROP for police officers. The mayor ELIMINATED DROP for our Chief's. This affects Chief's Long and Ramirez directly because they are both under 50 and will not be able to enter DROP prior to June 30, 2009. Chief Solis will be able to enter DROP, but my money says he was not ready to enter now; he has so much more to offer and to be forced to retire in five years will be another huge loss to the department and the citizens of San Diego. Chief Kanaski is already in the DROP and we will be losing Chief Meyers in the coming weeks as she completes her DROP.

Let's take a look at what the elimination of DROP from Chief's will do. As an organization you hope your very best people rise to the top as leaders and help shape the vision, values and reputation of a department. The people make the organization; the middle managers help guide and mentor the worker and management leads. This is my simplistic view of the importance for having not good, but GREAT people at the top. Here in lies the rub of what the mayor has done to management within the San Diego Police Department.

(Before beginning the discussion further I am going to put my optimistic hat on and say the entry age for DROP will soon be 50 again and will use this age for further discussion.)

We have a couple of Captains who are pressing 50. There is an Assistant Chief opening and candidates are asked to express their desire for the position. There are a couple Captains who are in their mid-forties who are also potential candidates. None of these individuals are prepared to retire and entering DROP for those pressing 50 is a couple years away. What affect will the ability to enter DROP as a Captain have on the decision to throw their name in the hat for consideration to be appointed Assistant Chief? Will highly qualified Captains forgo seeking advancement in lieu of DROP? Keep in mind the 90% cap on retirement; the loss of the money earned in DROP and the fact an Assistant Chief's salary is within a few dollars of a Captain's.

Has the mayor just made the Chief's position one that is no longer sought after by our most talented? Has the mayor now created a position only those from the outside will seek? Is that an underlying goal of the mayor? Why would a captain who has 29 years of service seek advancement to Chief when in one year he/she will reach the 90% cap for their retirement and no longer earn service credits? There is now NO benefit in seeking advancement to the Chief's level.

The POA in all likelihood will be successful in the legal fight with the mayor regarding DROP. The mayor's attempt at modifying a vested benefit has destroyed a police department unnecessarily and caused over one hundred senior, experienced and dedicated members to leave before they are ready in order to preserve benefits promised for many years. What likelihood do our Chief's have of DROP being returned to them? Chief Long and Ramirez have a better chance than a person appointed after July 1, 2009. The benefit would not be vested to a person appointed after July 1, 2009, and would have to be approved by the voters if somehow it were to be offered again. Here is a bigger question; will a person who entered DROP as a Captain now be ineligible for appointment to Chief?

There is so much wrong with this; words defy me. I feel for those who had this benefit ripped from them. I feel for a department who was held up as a model not just across this nation but worldwide; but now is looked at with pity. You get what you pay for in life. The mayor has shown his proclivity to be cheap. Imagine if you will what we will look like in the next year. Before you close your eyes; we have a one year imposed contract and will be forced to the table next year. The mayor is already talking of another deficit; one even larger than this year's. Close your eyes and imagine…

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