Phoenix Law Enforcement Association

PLEA Reponds to Townhall Meetings

Invisible Man
(agement)

Will Buividas
Chief Contract Negotiator

Recently, all of patrol was mandated to attend “town hall” meetings with some of the Assistant Chiefs. At these meetings you were told….well….nothing.  The Chiefs told officers that the 4th floor has “no answers” or even worse, answers that appeared short in common sense; this in spite of the fact that many legitimate questions were asked.  Here are some of the questions from numerous officers at all six sessions:

  • Q: What about private purchase rifles?
  • A: “We can’t do that because it is a liability issue
  1. Are you kidding me? The last time I checked ANY officer can purchase their own handgun and shotgun. Just as with City-purchased weapons, they still have to qualify with the personally owned guns. A sergeant even commented that he had three guys on his squad willing to purchase their own rifles.  Isn’t a rifle more accurate than a handgun or shotgun, doesn’t it have less penetration power, can’t it provide a safer operating distance for the officer, and doesn’t a rifle require more skill and time to qualify with?  Maybe somebody smarter than me, with some stars on their collar, can explain the liability issue.
  • Q: Civilian wagon process?
  • A: “We are looking at that and hopefully will be going in that direction soon.”
  1. What they failed to mention is that there’s been committees on the jail issue since 1997. That’s only 12 years. I’m glad now, 12 YEARS later, it’s finally a priority to the 4th floor. Of course, it took citizen groups putting public pressure for the 4th floor to even look at the issue.
  • Q: What about compressed work week (3/13’s)?
  • A: “Negotiation issue”.
  1. While this is true, they failed to mention that we’ve been trying to discuss and test 3/13s for over 6 years. We even brought it up again about a year ago to get it instituted at the same time the rebid was occurring (makes sense to only do one rebid instead of two).  The 4th floor flat-out refused to talk about it. The 4th floor’s stance was you’ll have to wait until negotiations – there’s no other way they would ever do 3/13’s.  PLEA believes it would save citizens millions of dollars, increase officer safety by having larger squads, and reduce the number of shifts thus the corresponding number of supervisors. I guess since they have the stars, officers will do as they’re told, even if it lacks common sense!

For those who couldn’t attend (like Chief Harris) the above questions are just a sample of what was talked about. Don’t worry, you didn’t miss much! However, I’ve received some interesting feedback from the officers who did attend. The common theme I’m hearing is that these “town halls” have scared the officer with one to two years on to the point where some of them are not buying Christmas presents for their families.  The remaining officers have just been “pissed off” by the gatherings. If this was the 4th floor’s goal, I say “Mission Accomplished!”  A great morale booster – NOT!

As with past budget difficulties and previous negotiations, I’m here to tell you that you can expect PLEA to aggressively protect sworn jobs while reduction issues and fiscal posturing are in full swing. We’re a united union from the veteran with decades on to the youngest officer with only 6 months. It’s all about the members.  We care about each of you and your families. We’ve been and will continue to fight for every single job. The City of Phoenix has never laid-off police officers and firefighters – past history is a reasonable indicator of future performance.  It’s been communicated to PLEA and to our community partners that public safety is the highest priority for City Management, the Mayor, and City Council. Some examples of what PLEA has been doing to protect your jobs compared to the invisible manger:

State Shared Revenue

  • PLEA has two full-time lobbyists who are consistently at the Capital fighting for State-shared revenues. They’re down there on a routine basis, boots on the ground, meeting with State legislators and the Governor’s office, writing legislation, and testifying on bills. Who’s NOT there? Police Management – they seem invisible in the fight for State-shared revenues. Oh, I forgot, Police Management has attended some hearings in the legislature but the only reason they were there was to make sure PLEA President Mark Spencer wasn’t wearing his uniform.  By the way, State-shared revenues make up half of the City’s general fund budget which is used to pay our salaries. I guess being visible in a police uniform while fighting for PLEA members’ compensation (not to mention pension benefits the 4th floor readily embraces) was completely out of line.

City Council Meetings

  • PLEA is at City Council meetings where budget issues are being discussed. We’re also meeting with our elected officials on a routine basis and stressing to them how cuts to public safety will have drastic effects on the community we serve. 4th floor personnel seem undetectable at these Council meetings. Hopefully, they’ll show up before it is too late.

Community Budget Hearings

  • For the past few years, PLEA has been a fixture at the community budget hearings. These hearings allow citizens to give input into the budget process and make recommendations for service cuts. While PLEA has been speaking out, year after year, along with the Fire Union and FIRE MANAGEMENT, we’ve yet to see ANY police management speak at these important budget hearings. They’re invisible.  Shouldn’t they join PLEA and the Fire Department in telling the community what these cuts will do? I guess it’s not a priority for them.  Let’s see…the 4th floor makes great money, has miniscule accountability, and takes no risks – why ruin a good thing by publicly supporting the troops?  PLEA will be there again this year. I encourage every officer to have their families, friends, and neighbors show up at these hearings in February. The more people we have supporting public safety the better. We’ll keep you posted as to the time and location of the meetings.

Media

  • PLEA, along with the fire union, has been airing public service announcements for the past couple of weeks. These PSAs remind our communities of the importance of public safety in our neighborhoods by reiterating to families that we’re there for them day or night. Phoenix Fire Chief Bob Kahn recently wrote an article in the Arizona Republic stressing how a sizable reduction in the Fire Department’s budget would destroy the quality of life in Phoenix. He wrote about increased response times, stations being shut down, and the possibility of the Fire Department not getting to your loved ones until it’s too late.  I’ve yet to see an article by Jack Harris – invisible ink.  Oh wait, didn’t he write one about “corn venders” and “undocumented workers” a while back? Just a thought, maybe crime is down because many of the illegals have left the City of Phoenix. Maybe it’s because the few front-line troops and investigators left are hard at work.  At least, that’s what many of the officers at these “town halls” were mumbling while Jack was giving his “video” message. Guess it wasn’t important enough to address the troops in person. I also remember a few months ago when a pension allegation was made of Chief Harris “double-dipping.”   Then it sure appeared important enough for him to be visible on Sunday morning talk shows and vocal on multiple radio stations.  Where is he now? Why is Fire management speaking out about service reductions while Jack Harris remains mute (or at best has his attorney claim in a legal response to a pending pension lawsuit that he’s not the police chief)?

Community Groups

  • PLEA has partnered with numerous large community groups throughout the City of Phoenix. Recently, PLEA was co-sponsor with Require the Prior of the “Indian School Block Party.” This event was attended by nearly 30,000 residents and over $15,000 was raised for PLEA Charities. These community groups are extremely supportive of rank-and-file Phoenix Police Officers. They are committed to helping maintain our current service level to the citizens of Phoenix. They are true partners.  Does the 4th floor partner with the community? They seem invisible.  They communicate to community groups not to get involved with issues that legitimately concern their neighborhoods as tax-paying citizens (we call them bosses).  Invisible management seems to put great effort in shutting out the community.  That darn accountability to tax-payers is an uncomfortable thing.  Recently, a north-side patrol commander told community groups that even if we have to take a sizable hit to our budget, it will have no effect on services. Great wisdom from one who sits behind a desk, exposed daily to paper cuts and hurt feelings.  Are they joking? How out of touch can you be? A 15% cut to the budget would have no effect on services? What about the priority 2 calls holding for 2 hours in your precinct?  Maybe they should take the Fire Department’s lead and explain to these community groups how responses times would increase, crime rates would climb, and a reduction in detectives to investigate crimes. I challenge each officer to ask their precinct/bureau commander if they’re going to be fighting for them. Ask if they’re going to let the community know the impact these cuts will have on basic services or if they’ll break out and hide in the comfort of “the invisibility cloak!”
  • Real leadership can be found in our public safety partners, the Fire Department. Chief Kahn is out in front on these issues. He is telling the community that the Fire Department is already stretched as thin as possible. He is warning them that THEIR fire station could be shut down and they might not be able to respond to THEIR emergency until it is too late. Where are Jack Harris and the 4th floor? I have yet to see them sounding the alarm to the community. Why are they not publicity trying to protect the services that we provide to the citizens? Below is a recent article by Fire Chief Kahn relating to possible cuts and the impact they will have on the community.

Chief Kahn Arizona Republic article

Promotions/Demotions

  • While these “town halls” were happening, the Department was also busy PROMOTING a sergeant and a lieutenant. Yes, in the midst of over 400 vacancies, I said PROMOTING. The band played while the ship sank!  If you didn’t have the opportunity to attend the “town halls” the looks on the officers’ faces when they heard about on-going promotions said it all. On one had you’re telling the junior officers that they might be laid-off and on the other hand you are promoting personnel. Does that make sense to anyone besides the 4th floor? Seriously, this is beyond ridiculous. Where did common sense go? It’s disappeared!  PLEA has been telling the Department for over a year to stop promoting, and NOT open the new precincts for a couple of years until we have enough officers (and vehicles) to staff them.  Remember, 400 vacancies!  Even some command staff has told the 4th floor the same thing. Of course I don’t have three or five stars so I wouldn’t know the deep logic of their plans!  PLEA has also been told that in the 4th floor’s first proposal to City Management, they proposed to lay-off officers (worst case scenario), but even if they laid-off officers, they had no plans to demote any supervisors! So let’s lay-off officers and have our supervisors do what? You got me! It was only after City Management forced the 4th floor to include demotions in the worst case scenario plan that the 4th floor agreed too. Maybe this is why they keep promoting! Does this sound like the 4th floor is looking out for the rank and file officer? On one hand scaring young officers with lay-offs while still promoting and then refusing to even include demotions in any plans until City Management forced them to!

Wages and Benefits

  • At a couple of the “town halls” comments were made by the Assistant Chiefs that they didn’t get a raise this year. They also commented that they are short 2 chief and 3 commander positions. What they failed to mention is that they are the HIGHEST PAID COMMANDERS AND CHIEFS in the STATE by a long shot. The next highest paid command group does not even come close to our command staffs’ pay. I’ve no hard feelings towards them for this. Everyone should be fairly compensated – rank and file officers too! PLEA has worked hard over the past contract to get us to the market AVERAGE of the Valley. That’s right – if you have stars you have the best pay in the State. If you answer radio calls and investigate crimes you finally make an average salary after years of being behind! They get rich, we take risks.  So when they talk about the cuts they’ve taken, it is apples and oranges! Dozens of officers and two sergeants are clearly visible on the PLEA wall of fallen heroes.  Remember, rank and file officers are working with 400 vacancies. The 5th largest city in the country has only 75 motors.  The investigations division is down almost 40%. How are they going to investigate crimes? You earn every single penny you’re paid!

The bottom line – PLEA continues to be on the front line fighting for your wages, your rights, and your jobs. Our goal is to get through this current budget situation with every single officer still employed with the City of Phoenix. PLEA has suggested millions of dollars in operational cuts. The 4th floor has consistently refused to look at them. I think many of us would agree the Department is top heavy and there are many cuts that should be made before the 4th floor even whispers about rank and file officers – the backbone of this Department. We’ll keep fighting for PLEA members through this budget process. We’ll continue to be united as ONE VOICE!

Upcoming Negotiations

Negotiations with the City will begin in January for the 2010 – 2012 MOU. PLEA has already submitted our initial proposals based on the bi-annual survey that was sent out in August. The priorities that you identified in that survey are the priorities that we’ll be pursuing. As I mentioned, the current contract got us to the market average in the Valley. In no way, shape, or form are we overpaid. Our goal is to secure a contract with a wage and benefit increase while keeping each one of you employed as officers. Hopefully, we’ll be successful. We’re also looking to improve officer rights issues to continue and improve the protection officers need.  We’ll keep you posted throughout the process. I believe we’ll be able to secure a fair contract while not losing any officers.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about any of the above issues please feel free to the PLEA office at 602-246-7869.