Sunday, May 3, 2009

We’ve Been Here Before

I remember when I joined the San Diego Police Department back on April 30, 1979. I was a twenty-two year old recruit in an academy class (Fighting 93rd) of over 100. The academy class before mine had over 100 recruits and the academy class that followed had over 100 recruits. The two years prior to my joining the department saw officers exiting for other agencies due to the low pay and benefits. Then Mayor Pete Wilson had proclaimed that working in sunny San Diego was worth 10% in salary and the City was refusing to provide a pay increase to members of the Police Department. There was a "Blue Flu" that really only had the support of about 10 officers, mostly from Southern Division. Unlike the Sheriff's who all called in sick in mass and headed to Arizona so they could not be served with orders to return to work; the San Diego Police Officers could not garner any support for a meaningful protest of what Pete Wilson was doing. There were marches and protests. But in the end we came out of this period with positive increases in pay and benefits.

During this time we saw TEN (10) officers killed in the line of duty. Training and a lack of man power were ALL contributing factors in the deaths of those we lost. Training officers who had less than 18 months on the department, training those of us who were hitting the field; Academy training that did not include a two week survival block and officers out gunned by criminals, all contributed to these deaths. Senior Detectives and experienced Supervisors were leaving the department by leaps and bounds.

Look around and what do you see today? A mayor who is waging war with his police department; a City Council who is sitting silent as a tacit approval of the mayor's war against those who are tasked with protecting the citizens; Senior, experienced Supervisors, Detectives and Officers leaving in droves to preserve benefits that are being eviscerated by a vengeful mayor; Minimum staffing levels that are a joke and still can't be met and a group of professional officers who can no longer hide their anger. The difference between 1979 and 2009? Academy classes are struggling to meet the 25 recruit level. Yes, I know; the "next" academy will have 50 Recruits (that's the goal folks) and that will replace just over a third of those who have already left and then we will work on the next two thirds; forget about the 150 leaving between now and June 30, 2009. We will figure that out later.

The ray of light, if we all agree we are at or near the bottom of where the mayor is taking us (I struggle to believe we are anywhere near the bottom of where this person wants to take us) then things can only get better. Chief Lansdowne is the eternal optimist and will shed a positive light on the future if asked. He has always been able to keep a positive outward appearance for his people. He is and has always been our biggest cheerleader. The Chief will tell you the opportunities for those who tough it out will be endless. I would agree that opportunities will be bountiful for those who continue to serve. Positions and openings in; SWAT, FTO, Canine, Air Support, Motors; promotions to Detective, Sergeant, Lieutenant and Captain will all be available to those remain.

The opportunity to mentor and guide the young officer joining the department today is there for the taking. The ability to promote and transfer to various jobs within the department will present themselves over the coming months and years. The economy will eventually turn around and your constant vigilance in educating the public you serve will pay dividends in the end. It will not be easy and there will be some bumps along the way. Maintain your professionalism and smile with the knowledge that this mayor will be gone in three and one half years. Most of you will be here when he is gone. We cannot allow him to win the war he wages against us. We must band together and stand shoulder to shoulder and not allow ourselves to break ranks. We will come out of this stronger, as long as we do not allow this mayor to control our destiny.

Stand tall and wear your uniform with pride. Do not allow the mayor to tarnish your badge. We have been here before and we survived. YOU WILL SURVIVE!!!

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