In the next few days the mayor will announce proposed cuts in city services to close a $179 to $200 million deficit. The mayor will also tout new indicators of lower crime and a safe city. Various chief officers are doing all they can by spreading the news there is hope in the air. The stock market has rebounded and the mayor is telling everyone the payment to SDCERS is going to be less than expected. The joy in their voices is unmistakable and the glee in their eyes is akin to a young child coming around the corner Christmas morning to see a new bike under the tree. In the next couple of weeks the city and SDPOA will begin the process of "negotiations" for a new contract. History does not offer even a glimmer of hope of being treated fairly by this mayor. Yet there are those who want all of us to believe otherwise. I have a few predictions.
CUTS are in your future for sure! There will be reductions in benefits and cuts to wages. The mayor will seek to reduce overtime by demanding the elimination of holidays from our contract. There will be other demands made by the mayor in an attempt to reduce the overtime paid to police officers. The mayor will continue his push to reduce or eliminate retirement benefits and further the divide between police officers of this city and citizens. The mayor has an agenda and he could give a damn about fairness, equity or the men and women who protect and serve.
The chief officers are doing all they can to rally the troops and provide a measure of hope. The chief, always the cheerleader, continues to lead the cheer section as the rest of us watch time tick down on the clock. The score is so lopsided it would take a miracle to even get a tie at this point. But let's take a look at reality for a few minutes and recognize what we are up against. Before I do this, I want to share a sentiment I hear every day from officers and supervisors alike throughout the department. I innocently asked a detective if they were studying for the sergeant's test. The initial reply from this detective, "Trying, but not nearly as much as I want; no freaking time. I probably won't even take it, what's the point?" The frustration is clear and the drive obviously gone from an employee who has always had a very positive and upbeat attitude.
I pried a bit more and offered encouragement and talked about the positives of good people moving to the supervisor ranks. His reply was one that struck me as a systemic disease killing this once great organization from within. "I know. But honestly I really don't care because the drive has been lost during the last 5 years. You have to believe in the system, believe in the company, believe in what you are selling, and I don't believe anymore. The 7th floor could absolutely care less about their officer's and their people. If they did they would come out publicly and challenge the wrongs that are being said, challenge the city council, challenge the 'mayor' and essentially publicly back their officers. I, we, haven't heard a peep out of these people. I see it everyday around here and it's sickening to watch a once great department whittled down to a shell. Bitter? Maybe, but mostly I'm just disgusted."
The comments by this detective are reflective of what I have heard for the past several years from officers and supervisors alike. These sentiments seem to be getting stronger and deeper in the organization and have created a cadre of employees whose mantra seems to be "fuck-it; who cares." The ability to keep a happy face; positive attitude; and not allow reality to get in the way of the cheering from above has all but come to an end. People are fed up with the politics of smoke and mirrors and listening to a mayor and chief tell the public crime is down and all is well. They are tired of being made to feel as if they are the reason for the ills of the city and the constant haranguing in the press with no support from the leaders of this department. Loyalty is not a one way street and it appears many have reached the end of the pavement and are no longer willing to travel the bumpy road ahead.
The title of this rant is "You are going to be the BAD GUY" for a reason. The views in this rant are mine alone and developed while standing on the sidewalk, watching the masses chase the carrot of hope. As negotiations begin with the city, the tables have been set and cards dealt from a stacked deck long ago. Facing a deficit of $179 to $200 million dollars will require reductions across the board. The mayor is telling the chief; who is telling employees; the deficit will be less than expected because the stock market has rebounded. I will concede the stock market has made some upward movement. The cuts are going to be deep and to say otherwise is not facing reality. As with everything the mayor has done during his years in office; it is all in how it is presented.
The reductions necessary to close the deficit will require, as I said above, wage and benefit cuts and the elimination of employees. The catch will be how many employees need to be eliminated to meet the demands of the mayor to close the deficit. Where we become the "BAD GUY" is the "either / or" public demands the mayor will employ as negotiations stall. The mayor will publicly demand these wage and benefit cuts, "OR" he will have to lay off a large number of officers. So, you and I become the "BAD GUY" if we say NO. But before that happens, you can count on a heavy campaign, at the mayor's direction, from the 7th floor for all of us to accept the wage and benefit cuts so the department does not lose another officer.
The carrot is being dangled in front of those who want to promote. The carrot is already being held in front of those who took Saturday's promotional exams. The sixty or so sergeants who took the lieutenants test will all be competing for maybe 2 or 3 spots? The carrot is the promotion; the fact it will always be held just out of reach will not matter to those who hold out hope for a small bite. The one hundred and fifty or so who took the sergeant's test will chase the same carrot. That carrot keeps over 200 employees volunteering for special assignments and doing more for less in hopes of getting hold of that cherished carrot. The sad part; all this is a complete and total waste of money, to keep people "hoping" they will be the one who gets the carrot.
The next five years will see exponential increases in crime; officer injuries; civil lawsuits against officers and the city; officers facing bankruptcy and foreclosures; and citizen complaints. The department will struggle to hire and retain officers and we will be made the "BAD GUY."