Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Re-arranging the deck chairs

The mayor presented his proposals for cuts and reductions today. The good news is there are no actual sworn police officers facing layoff (That's what they want us to think). That is about the end of the good news, if anyone could really call it good. I have been following the Twitter posts of those tweeting about the cuts and am flabbergasted at the range of comments.

  • Ron Nehring;
    San Diego's Mayor Sanders (R) proposes closing $179M deficit w/ spending cuts, not taxes. It CAN be done.
  • Andrew Donohue;
    His friends disagree. Emphasis from Sanders is that onetime cuts ok because deficit not structural but related to recession.
  • Andrew Donohue;
    if SDPD equestrian unit eliminated, city COO says horses will be sold. But doesn't know whether it'll 2 a rendering facility.
  • Kevin Faulconer; my initial thoughts on the Mayor's budget proposal are positive. (Press Release)
  • SDPOA; San Diego Police Officers Association Response to Mayor Sanders' Proposed Budget Adjustments. (Read More)
  • Scott Lewis/VOSD; But Kevin Faulconer says it's "a good start"? Lani Lutar: City Budget proposal: Mostly one-time tricks ... kicking the can down the road.
  • Andrew Donohue; He's continuing to push problems into the future, like predecessors. Key difference: He promised, not only not 2 do this, but to fix this.
  • SDNN; is writing about Sanders pushing mid-year cuts: Under Sanders' proposal, fire pits on city beaches would be eliminated.
  • The Little Rube; hear my interview on KOGO, Chris Reed Show; about charter amendment for Competition and Transparency in City Contracting. (This is a must listen)

The police department has taken the brunt of the cuts being proposed by the mayor. The mayor's proposal calls for reduction of the Mounted Enforcement Unit. Under the mayor's plan, the Mounted Enforcement Unit will be eliminated and the equipment will be stored or auctioned and the animals will be auctioned or donated; the Harbor Patrol Unit will be eliminated and the ability to conduct proactive boating under the influence investigations will be greatly reduced as well is the ability to conduct boating collision investigations would be limited to shoreline investigations. Calls for service on the waterways will be transferred to the lifeguard service or the US Coast Guard.

Forty-one full time civilian positions will be eliminated. This will impact wait times for investigation support, fingerprint analysis, and other lab support, and will prolong the backlog of requests for assistance. Vacant dispatch positions will result in increased over time. Administrative job duties may either be delayed, canceled, or require sworn personnel to complete, depending on priorities or demand.

Twenty-one Investigative Aide positions will be eliminated. Responsibilities associated with these positions will be deferred to sworn police officers who will be assigned to handle the significant number of misdemeanor arrest cases that are normally assigned to the investigative aides.

Forty-eight Police Service Officer II positions will be eliminated. This will result in increased response times to priority 3 and 4 radio calls for service, which will now have to be responded to and investigated by sworn police officers, increasing the patrol officers out of service time, thereby increasing police response times in all categories. The wait time for citizens in need of accident, petty theft, grand theft, residential and commercial burglary investigations will increase substantially.

Twelve Police Code Compliance Officer Positions will be eliminated. The responsibilities associated with these positions will be delegated to sworn personnel and will create increased delays and wait times for citizens needing assistance and licensing and the many other tasks currently performed by these officers. These code compliance officers are responsible for inspecting and regulating businesses such as pawnshops, peep shows, nude entertainment, massage parlors, street vendors, tow companies, residential and commercial alarm companies, and many other police regulated businesses. The duties performed by these 12 officers generate upwards of $8 million in license fees and fines. Their elimination will simply require sworn police officers to complete these tasks to maintain order in these highly volatile business ventures.

One Hundred Thirty Three and Three Quarter (We still have ¾ of a sworn officer?) sworn vacant personnel positions, will be eliminated from the budget. The savings from these positions being eliminated have already been included in the vacancy savings that was already part of the calculation of the fiscal year 2011 deficit. The elimination of these positions will effectively shut down any and all recruiting of officers for the San Diego Police Department. This will in turn effectively eliminate the need for Academy personnel. The Police Department is currently woefully understaffed and struggles daily to meet the staffing needs necessary to respond to citizens calls for service. The danger faced by officers responding to calls is increasing as every day passes that the department continues to be understaffed. The fatigue and stress coupled with long work hours and constant vigilance to ensure their safety and the safety of others is taking its toll on every member of the department.

The proposed cuts to the canine unit are the most alarming. Under the mayor's proposal, a reduction of K-9 operations by 40% will leave twenty-four (24) K-9 officers to cover three patrol watches. The elimination of these 12 K-9 officers will further jeopardize the safety of officers and citizens. Those suspects who in the past submitted to arrest without physical altercation, simply because a K-9 officer was available and present on scene, will no longer be commonplace. The need for officers to enter canyons, fields and buildings in pursuit of dangerous suspects will now place the officers at a much greater risk for having to use force and the potential for injury will be dramatically increased. The incidence of claims due to injuries resulting from these physical confrontations will greatly reduce any cost savings sought by this proposal. I liken the proposals the mayor has presented to nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

The elimination of the K-9 officers; the Police Code Compliance Officers; the Police Service Officer II positions; and the Investigative Aide positions, is simply penny wise and pound foolish. One of the greatest tasks and responsibilities of government is the protection of its people. The shortsighted reductions proposed by the mayor will have a profound effect on the ability of officers to provide for the public's safety. Of even greater concern is the peril officers are now being placed unnecessarily so elected officials can gain political capital.

In the coming weeks, changes will no doubt take place, as politics enter the fray and a gaggle of cooks entered the kitchen. The mayor is going to receive pressure from his "fiscal task force" for these one-time cuts and continued shuffling of the deck chairs. There is nothing in the mayor's proposal that addresses the unfunded liability for the retirement system or retiree medical. There is nothing in the mayor's proposal to increase revenue to a level necessary to sustain basic core services in the city of San Diego. The mayor's proposal is a superficial and haphazard proposal for what the mayor terms an 18 month budget. We will be back at this again in very short order (LESS than 18 months).

We are supposed to be thankful that there were no sworn officers laid off. As I sit here writing this I do not feel thankful in the slightest. The bottom line is there are going to be citizens and officers alike injured and in some cases killed because of these reductions. Who will be held to answer?


Anonymous said...

Well said Steve. When will the 7th floor stop with the BS and tell the public the true impacts of these cuts? Lansdowne was on TV last night telling people there will be no change in the response times for calls. What is he smoking?

America's Finest? said...

If Lansdowne speaks out for the department he might as well retire. If he comes out against the almighty council and mayor he will be let go. Remember when he said there are 3 groups of people he deals with, the city council, the citizens and the department. If he can please two of those groups he feels he is doing his job. Well guess who the group is that is getting screwed.

Response times will go up. Crime will go up. Officers will be wasting time doing something that a civilian should be doing.

Look at the retention and recruitment plan Sanders put out in 2006 It says we are raising funded staffing to 2100 because we were so short staffed. I guess that is going out the window. But hey since we cut our funded staffing level we can say we are fully staffed. So at least we got that going for us.

But with all the money being saved from getting rid of 12 K-9s how much will lawsuits go up? Anyone try to get a taser battery lately? There aren't any. Use of force incidents might get interesting with limited force options.

Are we going to stop working safely because there is no dog available? Are we going to have to ask for a dog from another department? What a laughing stock will we become?

Moral is almost gone. I am sure there will be more paycuts forcing even more officers to leave. It will be tough to fill those spots seeing as we have a hiring freeze. But the city can continue to hire more consultants for whatever pet project they have going on. And Sanders continues to hire executive officers at high 6 figures. It's kind of funny I haven't seen any of them take a pay cut.

Just Wondering said...

Back peddling Mayor...

Wow I've never seen Jerry back peddle as fast as he can from his taskforce of prominent business leaders from the community. You know, the group he put together to work on solving the City's problems.

Today in the Voice of SD this was published:

Sanders distanced himself from that group not only with his budget choices (he's delaying a $27.5 million payment into the city's reserves), but his words, too. Though Sanders' office has said the mayor created the group and that it answered to him, he described it Tuesday as being independent in his first public comments since the draft's public airing.

"That's a group of individuals who came to me and asked to help out on this," he said at a press conference announcing cuts. "This is not something I convened."

Guess someone let Jerry know he and his group were and have been repeatedly violating the Brown Act's open meetings laws. Are all the elected leaders of this city just stoooooopid or is it the power and corruption that takes them over?

Seems the bankruptcy comment from the task force apparently got under Sanders' skin and raised some eyebrows with others. Sanders doesn't want to be remembered as the Mayor that led Enron by the Sea, i.e. San Diego into bankruptcy. All that mismanagement, corruption and wastefulness just doesn't sound, or read, to well on the old job resumé.

Rougher times are ahead for all city employees and retiree too. The next Mayor will have to deal with the wake of fiscal destruction left behind by Sanders.

Anonymous said...

I love how the fire department just told the news cameras straight up that response times WILL be affected, no question. Yet Chief Landsdown says Oh no our response time will be fine. Were good... everything is still fine. He needs a white sweater that says Sanders in red letters and some pom poms.

If I were the cheif, I'd take a job at another department. And on my last week here, I would publicly share all the statistics of how bad things are, given NUMBERS of assualts, shootings, etc. No the general "Crime is down," because actual numbers dont lie. I would show a photograph of every murder victim. And explain that whether crime is up or down... THEREs still crime and dangerous areas of this city. I dont like scare tactics... I wouldnt say "hey you will be in danger if...", but rather just show the numbers. They tend to speak for themselves. I would explain in detail what the mayor and council has done to this department, and I would name EVERY neighborhood (beat) that does not have an officer directly assigned to it during any given watch. There's a lot. Oh and during the speech... all the PSOs and Aides who are losing their jobs would stand behind the Chief as he speaks.

Anonymous said...

Remember Jeff Bowman, the former Fire Chief who left after calling the city out on the financial tail spin we were entering into at the time? Jeff had the fortitude and courage to respectfully identify the true, key issues of underfunding key programs. Unfortunately, we do not see that same courage and fortitude today because everyone is so worried about their precious "at will" jobs... Hey, you competed for it, now step up and do the right thing! Show some solidarity and leadership, Chiefs!