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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brettmx

Oh man!. I don’t even know what to say. I’m trying to understand your perspective but I just can’t get there. I pay out of my pocket a bit over $2600 a year for health insurance and it isn’t anywhere near what your family receives. I don’t have a retirement package that entitles me to 3% at age 50. You can say I made my choices, too bad.


The compensation package that your husband and other public safety employees receive in San Luis Obispo are incredibly generous. Did they “earn” it. I don’t know. Certainly other’s have jobs that are risky, involve dealing with not so upstanding citizens, and require similar qualifications and are paid significantly less.


Regarding the unfilled position. I hope you recognize that with the salary and benefit packages the Police received from the binding arbitration award the positions became so expensive they are now being left unfilled. It’s a strange quandary.


The 7% reduction is compensation along with increases in health insurance contributions is being asked of all City employees not just public safety employees. How do you think that effects a typical city employee who makes less than $50,000 or so.


I would like to sympathize with your position I just can’t.


mkaney

All good points, except looking through the data I’m having a hard time finding any city employee making under 50k a year, much less the typical..


r0y

Not to mention that many of us, not in the government sector, also have to face unemployment at a much higher rate or chance to happen. That alone is enough to not win any sympathy from me for these public employee union members.


IherpedAndThenI Derped

Amen roy


choprzrul

Ya know, my wife works 10-12 hour days, I work 10 hours during the day and then work 4.5 hour shifts 5 nights a week at a second job.


Sure hope all of those people on the public teet are enjoying the benefits of our hard work.


.


mkaney

I as an individual pay $2400 a year for my own health insurance. I couldn’t even finish reading this piece I became so irritated halfway through. What a bunch of whiny, ungrateful, self-interested garbage. You had an option, and that was to gracefully accept the repeal of binding arbitration with humility, or turn the populace against you.. You chose the latter. I expect that because of that, there will be plenty of support to cut your husband’s salary. We know what he makes, expressing hardship is an INSULT to the rest of us.


mkaney

And another thing. STOP with the self-indulgent BRAVERY nonsense. Be happy you’re not married to a fisherman, a lineman, a farmer, or one of the other 24 professions which are more dangerous than a policeman.. and that’s NATIONAL statistics, not here in cozy little SLO.


JackR

An individual health plan (vs. group) for my family costs $1300 a MONTH with $45 office co-pays, almost full price on prescriptions, and 50/50 coverage on most medical stuff. Do you know how it makes me feel when the person in front of me pays $5 for their prescription when I’m paying $75? That’s what you get when you are an independent contractor trying to make a living. What does that health benefit you’re getting equal to in salary? $20,000 a year?


As for understaffing, maybe they should have got together and came up with a plan to accept lower saleriies to be able to fill some vacancies. I’m sure most would consider that a bold move and set the bar for other departments to follow. Instead, you let the public decide that they were overpaying with binding arbitration.


Now it’s time to deal with some of these other issues. Like city attorney’s retiring from one city and getting $100K a year in pensions and then consulting for another city making $100K+ a year.


mkaney

Wow JackR I guess in some ways I am fortunate that as an independent contractor I only have myself to worry about. $1300 a month is insane. And I thought the rant of the public employees was pissing me off, I can only imagine how you must feel.


MaryMalone

You’re just lucky that those who pay more than you for insurance–as my husband and I do–don’t dismiss your comments as irrelevant, as you do to the SLOPD Wife.


How would you like others telling you we don’t want to hear sob stories about how tough it was growing up, just because we pay more for insurance and benefits than do you?


Kevin Rice

“Didn’t [the city council] recently give themselves a raise?”


No. It has been three years and there is no raise on the table. Currently the council makes $1,000 per month and the mayor makes $1,200 per month–except the mayor and council member Carpenter have elected to take a discount on their stipend. Carpenter also voluntarily opted out of the 9% PERS retirement contribution. Would you consider doing that? There is a special council meeting on October 25 on Council Policies and Procedures where comments on council stipends would be appropriate. Personally, I think they should get more. Each council member puts in about 20 hours per week minimum, and up to 60 to 80 hours during the budget cycle. Would you subject yourself to public criticism, non-anonymity and a picture of your home on the front page of the Tribune for $12.50 per hour?


“With the repeal of binding arbitration, the City Council now has the ability to impose its will…”


Yes. That was the intent.


“…without any sort of recourse for us.”


Wrong. Grievances may be directed to the electorate.


“I bet you the citizens of SLO didn’t hear about [the riot]”


Is this a complaint about the Tribune or was it not really much of a ‘riot’? I appreciate SLOPD for preventing a riot. I also feel we have some really professional employees that are compensated well, especially considering the area we are lucky to live in.


Mjd

I think it’s time for the city and the public servants work together and stop pointing fingers at each other. It is every where is bad right now not just San Luis Obispo. We are all in this together. If we work hard and together we could get things done.


MaryMalone

SLOPD Officer’s Wife, I appreciate your measured and well-organized op-ed article.


Unlike some, I have sympathy for the issues you face and the uncertainty of your financial future.


I don’t believe it was right to change the conditions and policies regarding payment for his services. To my knowledge, the SLOPD officers have not lessened the efforts they expend to do their job, and I doubt the risks they face every day at work have lessened. Since they are providing the same services, I believe their reimbursement (including negotiations for their reimbursement) for their life-risking job should not change.


However, in defense of those who decided to vote against the SLOPD in the last special election, the SLOPD brought this on itself.


Some residents’ opinion about the SLOPD changed in the months before the election, secondary to their handling of Ryan Mason’s violent attack on a local citizen while both were at a wedding, and some probably voted their anger. For many, this was the last straw.


SLOPD didn’t bother to even bring Mason in for questioning for 5 days, during which time Mason had ample time to destroy evidence, allow illegal substances to dissipate from his blood (except for steroids, which are stored in fat and so take much longer to leave the body), and consult with city and union attorneys, as well as his fire chief, for legal advice.


This failure in performance by the SLOPD, in my opinion, is likely not an isolated incident. The sheer magnitude of how SLOPD compromised any legal case against Mason is such that it is highly likely it is part of an institutionalized problem: namely, a willingness to allow their fellow first responders to coverup or allow evidence of a crime to be suppressed and/or destroyed.


In addition, Mason has been allowed to roam the streets of SLO, putting anyone who crosses his path at risk for one of Mason’s life-threatening attacks.


Election votes don’t occur in a vacuum, and the Mason-SLOPD issue likely played a significant role in the outcome of the last special election.


Again, I am sorry for the financial changes you face. I wish you well, and your husband safe.


SLOChuck

I’ll keep this short because I really don’t have much to add to what has already been said, but I think that it’s only fair that SLOPD wife see just how many people she has offended with this letter.


SLOPD wife, it’s a good thing you kept this anonymous because you’d be a laughing stock if you’d signed your name to this crybaby letter. Look around: Millions of American are out of work, not because they want to be, but because THEIR EMPLOYERS COULDN’T AFFORD TO PAY THEM AT ALL. Millions of Americans pay their own medical benefits. Millions of employed folks are having to pick up the slack because positions can’t afford to be filled.


Get real!


Go back to eating bonbons and leave the rest of us in peace.


TheInsider

This is just another example of how out of touch the SLOPD officers (and families, apparently) are. They make some of the best salaries in the entire county, suck officers away from the other cities who cannot afford to pay as much, and face little danger compared to officers as close as Santa Maria and Lompoc, where there are muggings, stabbings, drive-by shootings, and murders. Breaking up student parties and traffic stops seem to be the majority of cases here. They can’t even be bothered to solve burglaries and other thefts.


They get paid more than LAPD, where officers are actually SHOT AND KILLED and face real danger every single day. It’s a pretty cush police job here in our little tourist town. Where unemployment is nearing 10% and the average household income is below $40k, these officers (and families) making over $100k plus benefits should be grateful and quit their whining. It’s no wonder Measures A & B passed by such a huge margin.


MaryMalone

I think many posters here are out of touch with those who make less, or those who have to pay less for benefits, than they do.


JordanJ

If the police force would clean out their bad apples and care about protecting US CITIZENS as much as they care about protecting each other, we might have seen things a bit different.


What I have seen is ME, ME and ME when it comes to law enforcement. They keep criminals on the force and when we learn about it, they transfer them down the road. They cover up for each other after kicking some innocent citizens ass for whatever reason they thought gave them the legal right. Clean up, hold yourselves to the standards you’ve sworn yourselves to and maybe, we will think your worth more. Until then your overpaid and right now, that is literally overpaid.


Disgusted

Forgive me for not being sympathetic, but here’s my story:


My sales job of 20 years is down the drain

My adult child’s job is kaput, so we now support him

My life savings now earns .35%/yr.

My stock portfolio is cut by 2/3

No raise in SS

We are too old to be hired for other head of household jobs


Alas, we all suffer.

And we must accept our share of the economic downturn.