For the past several months PLEA and PPSLA advertised and got the word out about the joint survey on leadership and morale. Apparently the efforts paid off as evidenced by the fact that 60% of those surveyed responded. This is an overwhelming response as far as surveys go. Normally a 20% response rate is good and 30% is great. A 60% response narrows the margin of error to +/- 1.5% and is considered a phenomenal rate of response.
On Wednesday, May 8th, PLEA and PPSLA did a joint press conference in order to brief the media on the survey results. In addition, the results (without verbatim comments) were also posted on the PLEA website for the members to see.
The lingering question seems to be; what’s next? Now that we have the results what are we going to do with them?
Prior to any survey results coming in, PLEA and PPSLA had meetings with city officials regarding the current state of affairs and the non-existent communications between the labor groups and the chief. We (PLEA & PPSLA) tentatively agreed to go through the IBR (Interest Based Relationship) process in the hopes that lines of communication can be re-established that will in turn lead to productive dialog. This is a process in which both sides will come to the table with a federal mediator present.
On the day of the press conference, a copy of the survey was sent to the chief and Asst. City Manager Ed Zuercher. Since then, PLEA along with PPSLA has met with Mr. Zuercher to discuss the survey. PLEA let it be known to Mr. Zuercher that the survey results had merely confirmed what we have known all along; that since his arrival, Chief Garcia rather than making things better on the department, has made things much worse and that morale is at an all time low.
So When is the Vote of No-Confidence?
This is a question that both PLEA and PPSLA have heard from their respective members and it deserves an answer. From PLEA’s perspective, the survey was not designed to be a vote of no-confidence. It was designed to survey the members on a variety of issues such as leadership, morale, uniforms, shift schedules and lieutenant rotations to name a few. The survey was intentionally designed to not have the word “confidence” in any of the questions in order that respondents not be misled as to the intent. Regardless of survey design, there’s no doubt that many will naturally read the results as a vote of no confidence.
Based on the survey, and especially the verbatim comments (just under 6000), It is clear that most everyone, PLEA included, is very disappointed in the lack of leadership shown by the chief. We now find ourselves at a critical juncture with two immediate choices, we can openly declare that we are done with the chief and proceed to draw the battle lines, or we can give it one last chance to try to have a cooperative labor management relationship before throwing in the towel.
We have elected to do the latter and told the city that we will commit to the IBR process in order to come to the table, discuss issues, and work on solving problems. We have had one preliminary IBR meeting to go over ground rules, however due to scheduling conflicts, formal IBR meetings are not set to begin until mid to late August.
We know that many will probably disagree with this course of action. The PLEA Board is of the opinion that we can and should make one last effort to salvage the labor management relationship. For now, we are holding to the counsel found in the words: “conflict is inevitable but combat is optional.”
Entering into the IBR process is an important step, however the Board is also of the mindset that we cannot wait two and a half months to deal with issues. Therefore, the first order of business will be to sit down with the chief to have a face to face meeting on the survey results. Due to scheduling conflicts, the earliest this can happen is the first week of June. It is our belief that the tenor of this meeting will tell us a great deal about our future direction.