Grover Beach police rebuff Arroyo Grande merger
May 10, 2012
By DANIEL BLACKBURN
A plan which could lead to the consolidation of two South County police departments met its first serious resistance this week when officers from Grover Beach balked at potential personnel cuts in their ranks.
Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach city officials are involved in year-long discussions regarding the melding of their city’s police departments into that of Arroyo Grande in an effort to save an estimated $1 million.
After hearing that at least three of their sworn officer positions would be eliminated under the current scenario of the revenue-saving plan, members of the Grover Beach Police Officers Association (GBPOA) decided they “cannot support any proposal that results in the loss of job for any of our members.”
That message was contained in a letter signed by GBPOA president Juan Leon and delivered last week to Grover Beach Police Chief Jim Copsey. Leon said his group’s members were also “highly concerned” about a background, psychological, and medical testing system proposed to be applied to Grover Beach officers wishing to be part of the combined department.
Grover Beach officers also objected to a proposed probation period they deemed would be used by Arroyo Grande police officials to eliminate employees who passed the testing, but did not meet Arroyo Grande’s expectations.
And while officials agreed to drop the probation period requirement, the GBPOA said in the letter that its members were “highly concerned that the proposed testing process will be used to systematically target and eliminate members who are deemed ‘unwanted’ or substandard.”
Copsey said he was “a bit surprised” by the association’s letter, but remains optimistic.
“If and when the council decides to go forward with this,” said Copsey, “the best way is to have everybody supportive of it.”
The chief said if that support does not exist, “then we have to address those issues or find other solutions.” He suggested much work is needed “in order to make this successful,” but noted that his officers’ association “is still open to discussions, but they do have an issue with the current plan as proposed (at the May 8 Arroyo Grande City Council meeting). They don’t want any lost jobs. That’s very understandable.”
Copsey’s original proposal to his council was a concept that did not involve any job cuts, and was one that was supported by his officers.
Ironically, Copsey is working on a plan which, if it comes to fruition, might result in the elimination of his own job.
“I realized that was the situation going into this process,” said Copsey. “I’m not ready to retire, but I’ll do what is best for the city.”
The Arroyo Grande City Council Tuesday pushed a version of the plan forward by expanding a study committee to involve the public and a wider variety of interested parties.
Grover Beach City Manager Bob Perrault said he and other city officials have not yet seen the current proposal, “but we’ll certainly take the POA’s position into account when we review it.”