by Rusty Stuart
Recently the FOP put out a letter laying out all the reasons to quit PLEA and join the FOP. Just for a little background, I had been an opponent of PLEA for a very long time. I first became involved when I found two fellow officers to be in trouble who had been videotaped by PSB while working off duty. There was a fight at the bar they were working at and the department accused them of using excessive force. They were blasted by the media, the department, and surprisingly, OUR OWN UNION. Then President Ron Snodgrass, while at a seminar including AZ POST, told the group in attendance that our officers were guilty nine times. These officers were not guilty and later acquitted. We believed Snodgrass also negotiated himself a 48% raise while getting the rest of us 2%. Our group got involved in the union and ran for office in order to get Snodgrass out. Snodgrass was very close to Chief Hurtt and the two of them never had any issues. Who was the puppet?…
When Snodgrass was forced to resign, I encouraged our group to accept Jake Jacobson as a candidate for president for a special election. They begrudgingly agreed to give Jake and the board a second chance. In a meeting with Jake while he was acting interim president I asked him when the special election was going to be. Jake responded by stating, “What election?” I told Jake there had to be a special election as he was only a trustee and there was no provision in the bylaws for a trustee to just become president. Jake responded by asking me, “What if a dark horse runs?” I replied, “You mean what if someone runs against you and wins?” Jake said “Yes”. I said, “Then they are the legitimately elected president of PLEA, aren’t they?” Jake refused to have such an election in violation of our bylaws, and assumed the presidency. I was wrong about him and had egg on my face. Again we got involved and ran against Jake and his supporters to educate our members on our failed negotiations over eight contracts, and the open collaboration with management. Jake would later throw down Jason Schechterle and defend Ford Motor Company and the city while giving testimony to the New York Legislature. Who was the Puppet?
Our group quit PLEA and went to FOP to challenge the leadership at PLEA as we did not need a puppet for the FOURTH FLOOR, selling us out whenever possible in the name of cooperation. This was code for being a puppet. We did post a challenge to PLEA and lost. OR DID WE? We opened many eyes on and off the PLEA Board. It took time, but many within the organization began to question Jake’s cozy relationship with management. Jake then began doing things management wanted done over the objections of the Board. Suddenly they realized we did not need a Puppet. We needed an advocate.
Mark Spencer ran against Jake to correct the problems within the union. Mark had succeeded where we had failed both inside and outside the Union. I watched from outside the union to see if this was going to be a real change. None of the people involved in our movement had done it for power, or to split the Union. We wanted an advocate for officers, in contract negotiations, representations, and local politics that affect our membership and their very lives, such as illegal immigration. HOW MANY OF US MUST WE LOSE BEFORE THESE POLICIES CHANGE!!!
Mark Spencer and the current board of PLEA have made concrete changes. I have rejoined PLEA and as a member and a rep, support them completely. I have stayed educated and have proven I am not PLEA’s puppet. Those who know me in management know I am certainly not their puppet. There is right and there is wrong and PLEA has been on both sides over the years. Under this leadership, which includes Mark Spencer as our face and leader, directed by the board, PLEA has changed and is fighting for us in many arenas. For example, our last contract surpassed the last four combined. PLEA has been on the forefront of the illegal immigration battle, working to remove Phoenix as a haven for illegal immigrant criminal activity. PLEA has taken a very public stance on this issue putting us in the same line of proactive enforcement thinking as Sherriff Joe. There are other issues the rank and file agree with Sherriff Joe on such as civilianizing the booking process and getting officers back on the street. Agreeing on such important issues does not make us a puppet as recently implied by the current FOP leadership. It sounds to me as though they were advocating having puppet presidents back like Ron and Jake.
It is true you don’t have to fight with management all the time and most problems can be worked out. However, when you have such important issues that you disagree with management so intensely on, you must dig in and fight. How many officers was this department going to lose to illegal aliens before the city was to get serious about their prosecution and removal from our streets? Chief Harris may not know why our crime rate fell, but line officers have no question Sheriff Joe’s pursuit and prosecution of such criminals was the reason, county wide. I have a couple questions. Does the current FOP leadership side with Salvador Reza or us? Do they think PLEA should have let the City continue on its path of sanctuary or should we have spoken out? When you do speak out and the 4th floor opposes you, who is severing the relationship? When management tries to influence our Association elections, who is severing the relationship? Do the FOP leaders really believe they could have three thousand members and no infrastructure to support them? If so, how are they going to pay for it receiving ten dollars a month per member from the dues, as twenty five goes to the labor council? No, it is a classic bait and switch. FOP dues would be the same as PLEA’s within two years or we would have no representation.
If you are a young officer in fear of losing your job, attempting to weaken the bargaining unit at the very pinnacle of that argument should offend you. The City has threatened such layoffs every contract negotiation since the beginning of time I think. This time the threat is real and PLEA is working its butt off to make sure such cuts do not occur.
There is real change that has occurred in PLEA but that change is not complete. If you are unhappy, get involved, come to meetings, write articles, or run for office. Work for your issues within the Association first. With this PLEA administration, you will have a voice and a place for open debate. That has not been true in the past. Now is the worst possible time to be a puppet as they have suggested and the City knows it. We need all of us to stand together, now more than ever.