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.