Wednesday, November 11, 2009

There is ALWAYS Hope; or is there?

There are those who view life as a glass half full and there are those who view the same glass as half empty. Whose right and which view is most realistic? We have been through some very trying times over the last few years. Hundreds of senior and experienced officers were forced to retire; some before they had planned, to preserved benefits earned over many years. Repeated attacks to benefits and reductions to wages and benefits, have taken their toll. Today we face down the possibility of further reductions to wages and benefits and an even more real possibility of losing officers and support staff to layoffs.

The question of if we will lose officers is really more of how many we will lose. The question of how much more the city will take is also looming in the minds of officers. The mayor has repeatedly said police and fire will not escape the cuts facing workers in the city. The deficit is closing in on $200 million and projected to be as much the following year. Simple math dictates serious and deep cuts will be necessary to close such a huge deficit. The portion being attributed to the police department is $74 million. The mayor is graciously giving the department a $24 million dollar credit for the 300 plus vacant positions currently on the books. The down side is these positions will be eliminated permanently from the budget, thus again decreasing our ability to effectively provide for the public's safety.

The proposals floating around the department of eliminating various units (Horse Patrol, Harbor Unit, Division Narcotics Teams & others) does nothing to eliminate spending and close the deficit. The only way to make up $50 million will be to eliminate positions (people) from the payroll and cut spending. The elimination of overtime, holidays, take home cars, training, equipment and maintenance will help some. But when 70+% of your budget are personnel costs, the only effective way to close such a large deficit is huge cuts in this area.

When will someone stand up and demand the mayor and council take a step back and first decide where their priorities are? The taxpayers have consistently listed public safety as the number one priority of their government. While I am a fan of the Arts, Libraries, Park and Recreation, after school programs, senior and homeless outreach and many of the other social programs provided by government, I am a firm believer these programs are not priorities. I am not advocating the elimination of any of these programs either. But I do believe the programs need to be self sufficient and sustained by those who use them.

The mayor and councils refusal to seek increases to income is not a sustainable or realistic position today. They need to suggest and then support increases to the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), a sales tax increase to support public safety and develop a ballot initiative to begin charging for refuse collection in the city. The fees for use of park and recreation facilities need to be more in line with the cost of the use as well as after school programs and the Arts. More assistance needs to be sought for adult/senior and homeless programs. Federal dollars need to be sought out and a more collaborative effort with the county and state. This is ONLY a beginning and will do little to close this year's deficit.

The department needs to re-structure from the top down. The department is top heavy with redundant responsibilities being shared and duplicated. The elimination of two chief's positions, the legal advisor, four captains, ten lieutenants and as many as thirty sergeants are possible. The department also needs to determine priorities. Taking a page from the taxpayers; what is important to them? What is it they expect of us? What are their true priorities? I am a firm believer if the right questions are asked of the right people we will understand the priorities of the people we serve. I do not mean listening to the loudest yellers or the agenda driven small groups of people who seem to push their way into the spotlight.

I am sure to have pissed off some chief's, captains, lieutenants and sergeants, not to mention the chief's legal advisor. In an effort to step out of the box and make changes that are meaningful and have the least impact on providing the services we do, I have thrown some things out to begin a process of changing the way we think. Do we really need six chiefs? Do we really need a captain for every division? Do we honestly need two and three lieutenants in divisions? If we re-structured our field units and teams could we not eliminate a number of sergeant positions? The trade off is the responsibility for leading this department is driven lower and closer to where the work is actually done. Lieutenants would take on many of the responsibilities of the Captain and the sergeants would take on many of the responsibilities of the lieutenants and some of the political activities we have become involve in will have to be eliminated. Getting back to the basics of police work and leaving the social work and politics of seals and other issues to others is a good first start.

To reach $50 million in savings/cuts there is going to be pain. I said in a prior post we are going to be made the bad guy when we refuse to accept additional wage cuts and fight further reductions to benefits. The threats of large layoffs will loom and the department will have to make some tough decisions. There will be coveted assignments eliminated and people moved to priority positions. Before any of this takes place we first need to know what the priorities are from the taxpaying public. I am a taxpayer and am tired of listening to a mayor and council tell me what my priorities are. We as a department are not in a position to tell those we serve what their priority should be. Politics needs to be removed from the equation and honest assessments of crime and trends need to be presented. That does not mean we use the flawed FBI statistics to paint a picture of everything is great and crime is down. We all know better and are tired of hearing this.

There is always hope things will get better and we will come out of this unscathed. I am the type of person who looks at the glass as still having something to offer and yet room for more. I am the type of person who would rather be told honestly of the perils of the future than listen to someone blow smoke. What is going on today demands honest, frank discussion and leaders willing to confront misinformation and publicly support their employees. To do otherwise is a failure and disservice to those who count on this leadership and support. The reality of today is the outlook for the future is bleak and hope for a turnaround anytime soon is not good.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a novel idea Steve. Cutting chief, captain, lieutenant and sergeant positions is long overdue. I have never understood why the chief needs his own legal advisor when we have a city attorney whose responsibility is to advise all departments. The management of the SDPD became top heavy under Sanders.

The cuts will be drastic and there is little doubt the mayor is gunning for us and wants to make an example out of us. Like you said the other day, he is going to make us all out to be the bad guys if we refuse salary cuts. I will not agree to a single cut. He can cut every POI the department has for all I care. I work patrol and would prefer he cut them than cut my pay again and force me into bankruptcy and foreclosure.

Another good thought provoking post that will no doubt piss the chosen few off.

Billy Bob Henry said...

Sparky's some of your suggestions makes sense. Government workers feeding at the trough at the higher levels is a given but in San Diego its an art. Combine those reductins with a 12 percent pay cut then contribute 50% of the costs of your own retiree medical is whats fair to the taxpayrs who pay your bloated salary and cadillac benefits. Change the retirement age to 60 like the rest of us and get rid of the DB.

You loose creditibilty when you want to raise taxes. Welfare queens always want more taxing more is not the answer. Taxpayer have been raped over the years by govment workers now all of you must come back to reality like the rest of us.

These changes would reduce the unfunded retirement deficit substantially. But BK is the solution where we can take it all back and bring wages and benefits to a more reasonable rate.

Anonymous said...

What is the mayor thinking of since he was once one of you??
San Diego is not a place to think of cutting the forces. My opinion

CH

BBH Follower... NOT said...

BBH is an idiot!!!

He is a want to be cop who failed out of phase training and could not cut it... he blames everyone else for his failure and now rants about stuff he knows nothing about....

"You loose creditibilty" are you kidding me? Is it a wonder you failed out of your attempts to be a police officer?

SDPD 23 said...

Bye bye public safety! San Diego will surely experience negative quality of life issues with cutbacks in public safety. Silly me, I thought the role of government was to provide services to the public which they (public) normally do not provide for themselves. Things like libraries, parks, recreation, new construction projects, etc. should be placed on the back burner.

During these tough financial times, we do need to be fiscally conservative. However, we must also bring common sense into the equation. That is something Sanders lacks.

In regard to SDPD, I agree Steve. For years, the “rank and file” (officers and detectives) have been the focus of cutbacks both in personnel, support, equipment and resources. It’s time to look elsewhere, and not at the people who provide mission critical services. You know, the things most of us hired on to do. Things like public safety, helping others, arresting bad guys, becoming detectives and going after crooks. Look how patrol and investigations have been gutted. Units eliminated or running on a skeleton crew. These are the services that really count. Strong patrol and investigations bureaus make for a safe community.

It’s time to scale back at the top of the pyramid. One chief of police, and an assistant chief for operations and one for administration. That’s it. One captain for all of investigations. The fire department may close stations, so should we for now until things improve. Shut down Northwestern. That was a politically driven station to begin with. Do like the Sheriff’s do, and put the traffic officers in various area commands. We could eliminate the Northwestern and Traffic captains. We would save on building maintenance costs as well.

Jerry Sanders, when chief of police, reclassified all lieutenants as investigative lieutenants, which gave them an immediate 5% pay increase. He also gave them 24-7 / 365 unlimited use of their cars. Why take away working investigators cars? Take away lieutenant cars except for a very few who actually do work for a living. Hell, the lieutenants and above already receive additional flex benefits dollars!

Jerry Sanders, when chief of police, eliminated beats and created service areas. He reduced the span of control / officer to supervisor ratio so he could promote his buddies. It was a joke then and still is. We need to increase the officer to supervisor ratio back to the way it was. We won’t need as many sergeants. Sorry all of you who just took a promotions test, but this is reality until things turn around financially.

Time for supervision and management to take the financial hit instead of the officers and detectives. Time for supervision as well as mid and upper management to step up and lead by example. Do as the USMC management does; the troops come first. The rank and file is taken care of. The USMC command staff sleep in the same tents and eat the same food if any is left, since they get in line last.
They are true leaders, unlike the current SDPD leadership on Mahogany Row. And it does not count that Lansdowne goes on a ride along on Christmas.

Billy Bob Henry said...

Cuts from upper and middle management will not amount to a hill of beans. Everyone, all city employee trough feeders need to take a 12% pay cut and pay for their own retire medical costs. The Charter says employees should pay 50% of their retirement costs....days of the cadillac pension benefits are over folks... you only have yourselves to blame....

Anonymous said...

Boob Boob Henry...We already do pay 50% of our own retirement contribution. That was taken care of last year. Try to keep up and get off the same old soapbox. Your act is tired.

Anonymous said...

Hey BBH you do realize the city no longer has a set back for the employee contribution. So while other departments like National City just raised their employee contribution to a whooping 2%, the minimum a SDPD officer pays is 12%. Ours was raised 4% just this year.

As for the 12% cut, you do know that over the last 4 years we are negative by at least 6% in terms of raises. Between two years with cuts a year with no raises and one year of back loaded raises.

You sound like a broken record. You repeat the same things over and over. If things are so golden for us why don't you sign up. up until recently we had been hiring and I know you have been jealous of us for sometime.

The taxpayers haven't been raped by the workers its by the "leaders" who waste the tax money on projects that are frivolous.

But at least you and I agree on one thing reducing the underfunding. But unfortunately you think that is the employees responsibility. We aren't the ones who underfunded. And bringing back benefits to a reasonable amount. The SDPD is already the lowest paid department around. Do you just want to hire security guards and pay minimum wage. Then we can have wide spread corruption (by other than just the council). That would be fantastic.

Billy Bob Henry said...

GED educated cops are overpaid. The retirement benefits are unsustainable. Here'a another busted myth.

Here is the CalPERS life expectancy data for public safety members (police and fire, which are grouped together by the pension fund):

-- If the current age is 55, the retiree is expected to live to be 81.4 if male, and 85 if female.
-- If the current age is 60, the retiree is expected to live to be age 82 if male, and 85.5 if female.
-- If the current age is 65, the retiree is expected to live to be age 82.9 if male, and 86.1 if female.

That’s no mistake. The numbers for public safety retirees are identical to those of other government workers. As CalPERS notes, average public safety officials retiree earlier than average miscellaneous members, so they receive their higher level of benefits for a much longer time.

Here is CalPERS again: “Verdict: Myth #4 Busted! Safety members do live as long as miscellaneous members.”

Anonymous said...

To BBH:

You are an uninformed and uneducated part-time 7/11 clerk. Your spew is incorrect, old and caustic. Find another issue to fight because you are really losing this one. Steve made you look like the person you really are: a loser. And the best thing about is you just can't stand it..!!