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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Sorry to have to say it, but most of SLO PD officers and family have lost their perspectives. Salaries are supposed to be based on what an agency needs to recruit and retain good employees. Salaries are not supposed to be based on what current salaries are because they may be enough or, even, more than enough. In SLO, most people believe SLOPD officers are receiving MORE THAN ENOUGH in salaries and benefits to recruit and retain good employees. It’s time to be grateful for having been overcompensated for so long; enjoy what you have; and get those officers thinking about “public service” and not all of the luxuries money can buy.

O.k. so I just poked my head out the door to make sure the sky in my world is still blue.

That said couple things here. No cost of living adjustment in two years? REALLY!!?? Have you talked to any of your friends (non Gov.) and asked when their last cost of living was? Bet it has been at least two years if not longer. HELLO we have been in a recession.

On the $2000 you don’t mention if monthly or yearly. Seeing as your husband is compensated at work I would assume yearly. My wife (who is compensated for her employement) and I paid for our family last year over $9,600.

One last. My business has been tanked for the last four years and only the last year is starting to be one of the better in a long time but you know what, not once have I gone around to my friends or anyone else BELLYACHING about the unfairness of it all, because EVERYONE is hurting. Get over yourself!!!!

At last we can agree on something, although I’m sure we disagree on binding arbitration. I do fear that all this union busting and fighting with unions could have a very negative impact on us. IMO the police debacle was a bad case of binding arbitration but I don’t feel that we should throw out the baby with the bath water. But other than that I agree with you. These cops are out of touch with whats going on in the real world. Like you our business has also tanked and has slightly improved this year. We pay almost $1000.00 a month in med insurance and I’ll bet that her insurance covers more than ours does. We pay enough in monthly medical bills to make a good house payment. These people need to see that every one’s hurting and that if her husband isn’t happy then there are plenty of people that would be happy to take his place. That being said I don’t mean to sound cold, I understand that this woman feels that her husband isn’t getting the respect that he deserves because of the economic down turn. She needs to understand that when we are struggling to pay our insurance, house payments, grocery bills, and many are worrying about job security it’s very difficult for many to be sympathetic to someone that really does have good job security, makes good money and still gets benefits. Even if those benefits have been scaled back they are better than nothing.

OMG, She was complaining that her family is paying $2,000 a year for medical insurance? I thought she was saying $2,000 a month and it wasn’t making sense because I know the PD have excellent medical benefits.

Now it makes sense, she thinks paying a token share of $2,000 a year for medical benefits is something to complain about! OMG, I’m speechless, I really am..I don’t know what to say, I really don’t??

Where do I start? Oh never mind……..

This is a complicated situation. I don’t agree with the compensation for SLOPD’s officers changing because the SLOPD’s officers have not, to my knowledge, changed their job duties, requirements, and risks.

American workers are being treated shamefully. That doesn’t mean we should support the shameful treatment of any group of American workers.

However, as I pointed out to the author, SLOPD brought this on itself with their handling of the Ryan Mason case. I think that may have been the defining issue that made the difference in the vote. Voters vote their anger and outrage. What did the SLOPD expect?

It feels like we are beating a dead horse here.

The author states many valid and frustrating points however, as others have stated – these employees (SLO FD AND PD) should be grateful to even have a job that pays so well to begin with. Sure, the cost of living has increased, but news flash – most people have NOT received raises with their jobs as the cost of living has continued to increase. Bare bone crews? I’m sure the thousands of people who used to work with others who were laid off know nothing of this.. I understand that this can be different for police and fire – after all, having backup can save your life.. From an outsiders perspective – it appears that there are plenty of fire and police circulating the town on a daily basis. Perhaps the Campus Police should look into expanding / hiring if there is such a shortage / threat from drunken college students?

We have been living in a ‘surreal’ world where things have been great (a country powered by an exponentially increasing debt). When tough times hit, everyone wants to point the finger (ie: the city in this case) and illustrate how difficult and unfair things have become. Ever heard of adjusting your standard of living? A recession effects everyone.

I was promised many things when I took my job. With a recession, things change. You learn to be grateful to even have a job. It sucks, but you have no choice but to deal with it.

I am a 27 year old Cal Poly graduate. I work full time, own my own side-business, work with two local non-profits, and feel incredibly grateful to live in San Luis Obispo. I would be one of several that would gladly step in line to take a position within SLOPD or SLOFD (even at reduced pay).

So far, I have to agree with these post’s. This housewife is out of touch. Most of us in the private sector have not had a raise in the last few years, we will never recover those pay increases and are lucky to have a job. Frankly, if you want LA wages, you have to move there. Oh I forgot, the SLOPD is already earning above what LA pay’s. If your husband was a police officer in LA you would have something to whine about, less pay and 10 times the danger. Please count your blessings.

Thank you for the “policemen’s perspective” without all the vitriol.

As a non-union person, I object to your assertion, “without binding arbitration we have no one looking out for our safety and financial security.” I believe you are obligated to look out for your own financial security. If you (your husband) is getting a raw deal, and can get a better deal somewhere else, then by all means he should pursue the better thing.

Very nice article. Sounds like Measure A & B will work.

Some points of interest “my family pays almost $2000 alone” towards medical insurance. Be very glad that you are not on social security and paying those rates that the people are paying who have supported government benefits.

“My family is going to lose close to $1000 per month.” You should feel very lucky that this is all your losing. Take some time and go out and talk to some construction workers or look over the published foreclosure lists and see how those people are doing?

“With our city council so against police and fire, who would come here?” If the positions were opened up I would venture to say that there would be hundreds of applications. Most would take the jobs for less than what is being offered now.

It’s clear that there is an economic crisis not only in SLO but in every other city and this county. If there is any chance for a recovery everyone is going to have to pitch in and help. All of these unions are acting like NIMBY”S. Until that is addressed we will all be on the road to financial failure.

“We went nearly four years without a contract or any type of raise for cost of living, etc.”


Government employee attitude. Where’s my raise? I’ve suffered the same as everybody else because I haven’t gotten a raise.

Reality check. He is lucky to be employed. Many are not. And many have lost their homes and had to move away. Do you know what being unemployed and losing your home does to a person’s psyche?

Do you work? You might want to think about getting a job and contributing if you need more money.

I don’t want to rehash A and B, but the author brings up a legitimate point. What is being done about the new SLO police chief search? Are they scaling down the package that will be offered? Or are we yet again to hear that classic argument, “You’ve got to pay top dollar to get the best people.”

Why is it that whenever we are told we have to pay top dollar to get the best people we pay top dollar and get @#@!$……Let’s just say this county has not had the best police chiefs/sheriffs that money can buy.

Thank you for sharing and speaking freely . I sincerely believe that SLOPD is the best in the county despite my opinion of the Chief . I think it is only fair to ask before any more discussion what is your husband’s base pay at present , actual pay with overtime at present , and medical / retirement package at present . You wrote this letter , your want a public dialogue , I would very much like to have that dialogue with you , when I know what we are talking about . Fair is fair . Thank you .

Personally I do not think that public negotiations before the actual negotiations begin are a good thing . Is this a union idea or someone’s unilateral move ?

They will voluntarily and honestly provide this information themselves when pigs fly. Because their argument is dead on its face the moment they do.

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