Wife of a SLOPD officer speaks out

October 5, 2011

Editor’s Note:  The following essay was written by the wife of a veteran San Luis Obispo police officer. She has asked to remain unnamed to protect her family from retribution.

Now that the voters of San Luis Obispo have passed Measures A and B, I’m always being asked by friends to react. I guess this is how I feel.

Binding arbitration has been a complete frustration for years now. It’s been nothing but challenging with the City of San Luis Obispo. We went nearly four years without a contract or any type of raise for cost of living, etc.

When negotiations began for a new contract and eventually wound up in binding arbitration, we finally were able to get some compensation. Unlike public perception, binding arbitration does not allow either side to get all they are asking for. It’s an impartial party looking out for the best interest of both. We just happened to finally get some of what was due and the city chose to blame us for their bad decisions.

The police department has gone two more years without any type of cost of living raise and they’re now at the whim of the City Council who can impose a contract regardless of how it impacts its employees. With the repeal, they are asking for a seven percent reduction of total compensation, which means a pay reduction of over 10 percent.

Basically, we are asked to bear the entire offset of pension increases and with rising medical (my family pays almost $2,000 alone), etc., this means my family is going to lose close to $1,000 per month. Because Police and Fire cannot strike, without binding arbitration we have no one looking out for our safety and financial security. I don’t know the exact details, but the city had a multi-million dollar surplus years ago set aside for potential rising pension costs and they spent it on other city projects.

All that and yet we have vacant line level officer positions still unfilled in San Luis Obispo—my husband works with a skeleton crew as it is and yet there is no plans to hire more.  This is very similar to recent reports about the understaffed Paso Robles police department. It’s not just Paso, folks!

With our city council so against police and fire, who would come here? It’s astounding to me that a city of this size allows for so few officers! Absolutely ludicrous. It’s frighteningly clear how the council (and the city) knows absolutely nothing about police work and the risks involved. The citizens of SLO are purposely not informed about all the crime and problems the city actually has. If they knew, perhaps they would have more appreciation for the officers protecting them. People want quick responses, etc. However with the least amount of coverage allowed per shift, they can do only what they can.

I want my husband to come home every day—with so few officers to back him up due to under-staffing and the size of the city, one can’t help to be concerned. Here in San Luis Obispo, the college students had a drunken riot during WOW week.  Literally hundreds of kids were yelling derogatory remarks and throwing things at squad cars. There were only two officers on scene with hundreds of students out of control.  You’ve heard of the mob mentality? Thankfully no businesses or property where damaged, but I bet you the citizens of SLO didn’t hear about this.

With the repeal of binding arbitration, the City Council now has the ability to impose its will without any sort of recourse for us. I bet if you look into their compensation package there is no change. Didn’t they recently give themselves a raise?  Have they reduced the amount of city administration jobs and paper pushers?  They are looking to hire a new police chief. Look at the recruitment package—there are absolutely no cuts in that position’s salary or pension package.

Thank you for reading this. I have been the wife of a police officer for many years. It is a job that is often misunderstood and misjudged even by the closest of our non-sworn friends. In fact, we never talk about police and city politics outside our home. My husband and his brave co-workers have much honor and pride and go to work every day with their heads held high regardless of the attacks from City Council and the citizens they protect.

It would be nice if they knew they were appreciated.

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Police Wife: It seems that most public employees suffer from a disconnect with the current reality for most of us in the private sector; to mention that you will have to spend $2k more a year for health care costs and by doing so will be making roughly $1k less per month is probably the comment that most angered those who have written here with such anger directed at you. If you read the one comment by Korie about how the anger is misdirected laterally instead of those at the top of the income arena who have increased their incomes quit nicely over the last few years like bankers on Wall Street who have literally stolen our monies due to their “too big to fail” mantra that had the federal government (that’s you and me folks) throwing more money at them then they almost knew what to do with.

I entered the work force in the early seventies, got a fairly well paying job that had union representation; I never had the latest and greatest, ate cheaply and didn’t go out a lot, but my salary was enough to make my house payment, my car payment, utilities, clothing and food while my wife was able to stay at home and raise our eventual three children. If the private sector had kept on the path of the pay scales back then, most “average” workers right now would most likely be making between $50k and $70k a year; so what happened to put us on the path we are on now with shrinking wages, shrinking employment opportunities and spiraling out of control health care costs? De-regulation and tax breaks for employers moving their operations out of the United States; you can thank the “legacy” of Ronald Reagan and his mantra of “less government is better” which actually arrived at bigger, more costly government with the workers getting the shaft so that the big business types could make more and more profit. I looked into going into public sector work back then and it didn’t seem like the way to go at the time; the outrage by those who continually demonize the public employees is truly misdirected. Instead of “bringing down” the public sector to the woefully underpaid rates the private sector have to put up with, how about raising the compensation for those in the private sector back on track to what we “should” be at? Most of those who complain about the public employees getting paid too much do not realize that it is the ones at the top who have profited so well for so long at our expense. The best thing for public employees to do right now is to be very quiet and “suffer in silence” while the city, county and state governments wrestle with trying to do more with less, again, all of the backs of the middle class and below so those at the top can continue to enjoy their unprecedented increase in net worth. This is also what the “Occupy Wall Street” movement is about; the dire financial positions of the various governments isn’t the “fault” of the employees, it is those who have profited while the 401k s went in the crapper.

SLOPD salary, full benefits, and you’re coming up short? Time to look at expenses.

I’m sensing a theme here consistent with the rest of government…

1. Police solve crimes.

2. An armed citizenry prevents crime.

3. Police lobby Sacramento to implement gun control.

4. Citizens can’t arm themselves.

5. More & more crime happens.

6. More & more police are hired to solve the crimes.

7. Police unions are very happy with their lobbying investment.

8. Citizens are unhappy with high levels of crime.

9. Criminals are very happy about all of the unarmed victims.

10. This leaves the police unions and criminals happy; while the citizens suffer.

Gun Rights ARE Civil Rights.


I couldn’t have said it better myself.. talk about creating your own job security.

Very empathic and revealing ! Especially when the police and fire dept’s are long term employee’s versus the short term reigns of the City Council. But what shocked me most about the repeal of binding arbitration was the lead position taken by the SLO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE. Here we have top Chamber members championing the position against there own police/fire agencies! I operate a business here in ttown, and this convinced me the Chamber in SLO is not the place for my networking activities.

In reading some of the comments below, two idea’s are apparent:

One. You receive ultra negative comments from certain individuals (many times the same person over

And over), and the comments really just show their hatred or disdain of law enforcement in general.

Two. You receive negative comments from good people, who really don’t understand the nature of

Police work at all. My experience with law enforcement types is that average citizenry, though supportive

Don’t get the concept of police (and fire) actually rushing toward the worst of the worst, entering a

dwelling where an armed individual is present, putting themselves in harms way 12 hours a day, and

enduring the STRESS of all that negativity.

So what you’re saying is, you don’t think $130k-$150k a year is enough compensation for enduring that stress? And that those of us who think it’s more than enough are just negative and hate the police?

Hello mkaney,

Actually your numbers are wrong, and you definitely are one of those that fit under category

“One”. See above if still confused.

YOU KNOW WHAT, I tire of this game you play, I really do. HERE LIAR:

Position 2009 Wages Benefits

Police Lieutenant $142,118 $13,847

Police Lieutenant $148,078 $5,171

Police Lieutenant $142,210

Police Officer $116,205 $6,244

Police Officer $113,280 $13,847

Police Officer $124,742 $5,171

Police Officer $119,113 $15,324

Police Officer $108,192 $366

Police Officer $106,178 $1,039

Police Officer $108,885 $15,324

Police Officer $122,862 $13,847

Police Officer $139,922 $15,324

Police Officer $119,228 $1,989

Police Officer $104,206 $15,324

Police Officer $106,958 $551

Police Officer $107,988 $6,244

Police Officer $107,676 $15,324

Police Officer $135,345 $551

Police Officer $92,722 $551

Police Officer $111,375 $15,324

Police Officer $99,974 $8,256

Police Officer $112,426 $15,324

Police Officer $117,156 $7,859

Police Officer $114,614 $10,746

Police Officer $108,326 $11,616

Police Officer $19,255 $3,192

Police Officer $130,885 $551

Police Officer $118,213 $12,564

Police Officer $132,989 $15,324

Police Officer $124,995 $14,485

Police Officer $116,120 $13,847

Police Officer $111,347 $13,847

Police Officer $135,014 $15,324

Police Officer $96,863 $5,942

Police Officer $134,908 $551

Police Officer $112,291 $6,179

Police Officer $130,511 $551

Police Officer $106,593 $15,324

Police Officer $162,936 $10,926

Police Officer $108,138 $11,616

Police Officer $122,962 $329

Police Officer $109,012 $15,324

Police Officer $112,650 $1,039

Police Officer $114,995 $11,616

Police Officer $112,804 $11,616

Police Officer $123,954 $13,847

Police Officer $110,932 $15,324

Police Officer $123,528 $10,280

This is pretty revealing/says it all.

Well, that makes SLORunner look like a horse’s patoot, doesn’t it?

Yeah I’d be curious to know what business he manages to run with that kind of information savvy.

Maybe he sells union t-shirts.

I spent many years as a nurse in some inner city emergency rooms. I saw good cops and bad cops, heroes and tyrants. I’ve seen abuse of police authority up close and personal, and I’ve seen a small town cop who I loved dearly lose a partner to a gunshot wound on a routine loud party call. He left a 3 year old son and a six week old daughter. My thoughts on all of this are pretty open and fluid. That said, I’m embarrassed and sad for some of you in your bitterness and vitriol. It’s dangerous to be so black and white – to any hope of resolution and to your own mental health.

Ironic is that I think some of you expressing the most bitterness are also supporters of the “occupy” protests. It’s as if you don’t realize that these public safety workers ARE the middle class we are trying to save in the face of corporate greed. The banks stole our money, not these cops. The health care corporations and investors are sucking billions out of our health care system so that you hVe to pay zo much insurance, not a fireman or a nurse, or even most doctors. You honestly feel so mad about your situations that you blame someone lateral who is also trying to make his way. Keep us fighting amongst ourselves and deflect from the real problems much higher up. It’s all a part of the plan and they have you right where they want you.

I think most of us support the police officers and the job they perform. However, it’s also rational that they share in the effort to streamline tax dollars. The SLOPD received a controversial raise through the arbitration process that shocked the population. Rather than assuming this is an effort to punish the PD, consider it an effort to manage runaway benefits and salaries that are unsustainable.

I did not express an opinion about the binding arbitration vote. I was responding to the bile-laden comments. They seem so impulsive, childish, narrow, irrelevant. You can see the chaotic, misdirected anger flying off the keyboard.

As to the salaries, I’m not taking a stance and was not at all surprised at the vote.That said, I think you might find that even the “shocking” amount awarded through binding arbitration is consistent with historical police salaries adjusted for inflation (and, adding housing costs to the CPI – because it’s otherwise useless.) My point is that instead of being mad that some people have managed to preserve a living standard, get mad that so many others haven’t. $30,000 in 1970 had the same buying power as $175,000 today not accounting for the banker’s contrived housing bubble. What was the median cost of a home in 1970? Are you being brainwashed to believe your $50000 salary still qualifies for a middle class life? Are you fighting with the wrong opponent?

Disgusted, was a study ever done to justify naming the arbitration as the cause for need for streamlining?

I don’t see the city council cutting their salary or benefits, do you? I don’t see the city council being upset about Ryan Mason wasting DAYS of staff time in dealing with his steroid-induced violent attacks–and then the cover-ups–of his attacks on citizens, do you?

They found a target, the police and firefighters seemed eager to give (with their posts here and elsewhere) the city council plenty of ammunition to make the police and firefighters the bad guys, and the voters played their role by promptly voting against the PD and FD.

I’m stuck in the middle on this issue. I spent a lot of my life in close association with a family member who worked as an LACounty Deputy Sheriff, and he was a pretty good guy. Not perfect, but he tried to do good. After 25 years, he still got a charge out of doing something good to help someone.

But this asshattery that has come up with the local PD and FD, with members not willing to stand up and say what Ryan Mason did was wrong, but oh-so-willing to post here and elsewhere very dismissive and insulting comments to the people who pay their salaries and benefits—it’s given me a new look at today’s PD and FDs. And it’s not a pretty picture.

+ one for good use of the word asshattery

“It is a job that is often misunderstood and misjudged even by the closest of our non-sworn friends”

What makes this wife of a cop think she has any sworn authority? When you start referring to friends and family as non sworn or sworn, it’s time for a lifestyle change or a shrink!

Actually, the “us vs. them” mentality is one of the signs that you belong to a cult.

Just another perspective to those who insist on a flat comparison to the private sector vs law enforcement:

Those who marginalize our work and lay a flat comparison to the private sector are those who are either misinformed or have an agenda of some sort. We aren’t just paid for what we do; we are also paid for what we might have to do.

I sincerely hope that wiser minds will prevail in all of this. In the meantime, take just a moment to thank the men and women who stay up at night ensuring your safety.

We are your employers, we have decided not to pay you based on what you MIGHT have to do . A lot of people MIGHT have to deal with some unpleasant circumstances in the course of their lifetime. If you don’t like it, quit, and go find another employer.

And what unpleasant circumstances have you ever dealt with in life Kaney? Maybe daddy cut back the limit on the credit card while funding your college education at partying. Perhaps maybe you got bumped to coach on one of your spring break connections through phoenix and had to sit next to one of those baby killer, war for oil soldiers going home to see his family. But of course don’t worry, when that unpleasant circumstance rears its head in your coddled SLO life, just pick up the phone and those you disparage will be on the way.

Another attempt at a personal attack on me that has no correlation to reality. Why don’t you post under your real name?

Cybersecurity advisers routinely admonish internet users not to use their real names for screen names, and to not list their addresses or other personal information.

Thanks for the concern but I have been on the internet before there was an internet (e.g when it was BBSs and Fidonet). I am aware of what are and aren’t actual risks and the technical details of how criminals, stalkers, and marketing shmucks work. And I believe that people should be honest and up front online just as they should be offline. I don’t mind one bit if people know who I am, in fact I hope they remember and are taking notes. ;)

Bully for you. That is a choice for yourself. That doesn’t mean your choice is the alpha and omega for all other posters.

And the security concerns are valid.

When I did board moderating for the ACLU message boards when they were on AOL, to get the rights to have access to AOL’s software for programming, you had to go through this intensive training. Security was a big deal with AOL (understandable because they promoted AOL as a “child-safe” environment.

Something brought up in the training was that internet users should never post pictures of their kids online because pervs are very clever at figuring out from very subtle clues in the picture where it is likely the child lives, goes to school, interests, etc. Some pervs will go after any vulnerable child, but some get fixated on one they see online, and will spend a good deal of time tracking them down.

I would have never thought of that–just not my orientation.

And giving clues to pervs by posting photos of your kids is just one of the innocent things so many people do which can cause them real problems.

In fact, if someone even challenges another person for not posting their real name, it is a trigger of concern for obsessive attachment with the other person.

So each person has the right to choose, by how much personal identifying information they freely release on the internet, the level of security threat they want to introduce to their homes and families.

Your willingness is a bit more than mine. Neither is right or wrong. Our choices just indicate our priorities.

Special offer! Anonymous commenter accounts converted to your real name at no charge! Just contact admin@calcoastnews.com for details.

Mkaney, we often agree, but i disagree on this post.

I have a problem with catchy jingoisms like this “based on what you MIGHT have to do,” because they often appeal to anger, fear, or other negative emotions.

However, the “but what we MIGHT have to do” statement is true. They are paid to face basically whatever crosses their path. This includes very dangerous situations involving facing gunfire and other threats, as well as having to play mindreader and finesse a situation (often taking extra risk in doing so) to ensure you don’t end up harming a citizen if you don’t absolutely have to.

I can tell you from experience that if the LA River is nearly full, bank to bank, and some stupid kid decides to take a rubber raft down it, if there is a police officer, firefighter, or other first responder in the crowd who sees it (off-duty or on-duty), they will be the first ones to organize and perform a rescue. They are fiercely courageous when it comes time to save someone’s life.

I don’t begrudge them their pay. I don’t like that the arbitration measure was passed. The police and firefighters have not changed what they do or how they do it. They still suffer the same risks. So I don’t think it is fair for the terms under which they perform their job (including how they are paid, including negotiating for pay) should be changed.

Oh by the way, are you talking about the ones using speed to stay up at night to ensure my “safety?” When was the last time the police prevented a crime, as opposed to showing up afterwards?

I would say: Back that last cheap shot up, or stand down. And since when did police presence stop preventing crime? That was a bit rhetorical or sarcastic, or both.

And for the first acid tongued comment, I would just venture to say that your term “unpleasant circumstances” is likely a bit different than what I meant. What I was alluding to is if a cop had to smoke someone, then go home and live with it…Not exactly just an “unpleasant circumstance,” IMHO. But, what the hey, you live in SLO…nothing ever has or will happen, right? No one thought the whack job at the Goleta post office would ever shoot the place up and kill co-workers either…Or the shooter in sleepy Cupertino this week. Just frikkin sayin…….GAFC…

Spare me AzureSees! The majority of cops are power hungry who care more about lording their power over people than “serving and protecting.” You know what set of circumstances you’re signing up for when you enter the academy. And as several folks have mentioned: You are SLO cops, not LA cops. You serve the “happiest place in the US,” not Detroit, Watts or Hell’s Kitchen.

We, the public, tolerate you guys using unions to guarantee you get a TON of overtime to pad your income and ensure you get decent benefits to compensate you for ‘what you might have to do.” Stop expecting us to lavish you with riches and undying respect you haven’t earned.

Back it up!? Back it UP!? Have you been asleep? What about the two officers that got caught smuggling speed across the Mexican border? d’OH!

I’m not even going to respond to the rest. Clearly you’re “in it to win it” and there is NOTHING I can say that will get through to you. There are at least TWENTY FOUR professions that have a higher risk on a NATIONAL basis than a police officer.

… Back that last cheap shot up, or stand down … And for the first acid tongued comment … WOW I can see and feel you bitc… slapping mkany right now . I don’t want to get on the list you put mkany on but has anyone mentioned anger management class to you . Although , I may want you on my side at the negotiations . Your attitude is the kind that scars most people , shut up or I’ll kick the crap out of you then throw you in the back of the cop car . I am not say this is you but you are not helping the stereo type . Believe it or not I am a supporter of SLOPD but I have to ask the question do I want 10 cops at 150k to 200-plus k or 25 cops at 80k ? It is only my opinion and I think the smart stewards will tell officers and their wives to drink a cup of shut-up until the negotiations get under way . Remember , there are no bad unions just bad stewards .

I would ignore the cop bashing. To me this isn’t about cop bashing, there are good ones and there are bad ones. We do seem to get our fair share of bad stories regarding SLOPD but I’m sure that there are plenty of good cops in the dept. IMO this is about about money not about bad cops. I want to pay you guys as much as I can. But at this point I also want to feed my kids and be able to take them to the doc if they need to go. The last thing that many of us need to hear is a wife of cop going on about how they have to pay a bit more on their insurance or how they don’t get enough raises. She should be thankful that her husband has a job with good benefits. But I’m not even mad at her, I just feel that she’s out of touch with what’s going on in the real world, I hope this isn’t the case with all the cops. If they all agree with her and don’t see what’s going on with this economy then perhaps we do have problem with them, perhaps they should move on if that’s the case. We don’t need unsympathetic cops.

What is going to help me more if some whack job shoots up the post office here, the right to carry a concealed weapon, or a large highly paid police force?

BTW azure and sheepdog (the name reveals a lot about how you think) I’m presuming you are police officers. If so, I would like your names please. If you are ever in the field and you encounter me and you seek to categorize me like that and then deal with me in that context, I promise you that you will have to answer for it formally. I am not some disenfranchised dirtbag criminal. You might find that you get on fine all day long intimidating people, but I expect you to treat me with respect in person and I will do the same to you. Furthermore, I am a hard working person that did not just have things handed to me, and I am from a family known in this area for being hard working, having integrity and for contributing to this community, and that includes the police department. So check yourself and learn some manners.

Mkaney–the presence of police deters/prevents crime.

And so it begins. Azuresees, since I have been posting here, there has not, on one occasion, a police or fire department member posted here where it has turned out anything other than a disaster in public relations.

It was Ryan Mason, the way the PD handled him, and then all of the posts here that swung the arbitration vote against the first responders.

I don’t know what else the first responders could lose now, but if y’all keep it up with the posts here like y’all have been doing, you’re going to lose that, too.

And I’m half-way on your side, dude/dudess.

When it comes to posting here, “How can we love you if you don’t go away?”

Propaganda and lies, all you ever say

Thank you, SLOPD Wife, for sharing your heartfelt comments. A big ‘thank you’ to your husband for the service he provides to the citizens of our fair community. He and his fellow officers, along with the firefighters and other emergency workers, perform work that most others can’t or won’t do. I appreciate what your family is going through, and know the gravity of the personal decisions you will likely have to make.

The sad part of all this is that we’ve failed to learn from history. This election was just another point in the swing of the political pendulum, a segment of the continual cycle. Unfortunately, families like yours will bear the initial brunt. You’re also correct, based on local history, about the Council’s ‘negotiation’ plans. The City will make the most cursory illusion of negotiating, declare an impasse at the earliest opportunity and then impose their last, ‘best’ offer. Your husband, and other families like yours, will have to balance the benefits of living on the central coast against the detriment of working for an employer who so clearly doesn’t give a damn about him.

The officers, firefighters, dispatchers and other city employees who choose to stay will do so with the full knowledge that the citizens of San Luis Obispo don’t support them. The most qualified candidates will seek and gain employment elsewhere. Those who have kept their end of the bargain with the city and can retire, likely will. Ultimately, the fine citizens of San Luis Obispo will get the quality of law enforcement and fire protection for which they are willing to pay. Based on history, they won’t like it.

The dissatisfaction with their decision won’t come quickly. Cultural change, for better or worse, is slow and clunky. The decline will be ignored at first. After some time, folks will notice that the quality of life just isn’t what it once was. The streets will be in need of more repair than they remember. Their sense of safety will suffer, and they won’t feel as comfortable as they once did. They will politely ask for change, for improvement. When that request falls upon deaf ears, their request will become a demand and the city leaders, several councils from now, will be moved to act. Perhaps a group will emerge and propose some method to force the Council to really negotiate in good faith and offer benefits that will attract more highly qualified candidates.

And the cycle will continue.

I hope your husband comes home safely tonight and every night hereafter. I trust that you will make the choices that suit your family best, and I hope you find a place where he can enjoy the support of the community he serves. It isn’t here. Good luck.

Hmmm, here’s an idea which I’m guessing won’t get too far in the public safety ranks. I want the best and despite what some may believe I’m willing to pay for the best. So in effort to get the best I suggest that public safety employees “try out” every 2 years for their positions. These will be open try outs to anyone who meets minimum requirements for that particular position. Applicants will be tested on all facets of the position; written, physical, and the like. The top placer’s will then be offered the job. How does that sound?. If you truly are in search of the best then just like in major league sports you have to earn your spot on the team.

I’ve lived in San Luis Obispo most of my life. I remember VERY CLEARLY how it was when the city government survived on much less money and were paid MUCH less.. I don’t remember it being a horrible place to live. The police do not understand that this self righteousness is going to make the anger against them GROW AND GROW. Keep it up!