SJ Politicians' Unwillingness to Compromise Cripples Public Safety

By Sgt. John Robb

On January 6th of this year, San Jose experienced its first homicide of the year.  Ivan Segura was found shot to death outside his home by members of his family.  Several weeks later, an elderly Almaden Valley couple was assaulted and bound during a home invasion robbery. These horrible crimes are unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.  Reducing crime is only possible with a stable public safety work force and a community willing to partner in preventing and solving crime.  Private companies without stable workforces are not profitable, cites without stable workforces are not efficient, and cities without a stable police force experience crime waves leading to unsafe neighborhoods.

Recently, taxpaying San Jose residents lost over $24 million due to officers resigning from SJPD and taking their San Jose taxpayer financed training with them to work for other departments. The cities and counties our former officers left to work for solved their budget and pension issues in a fair and legal manner, which allowed them to remain competitive.  With San Jose police officers’ training costs averaging over $170,000, they have become a valuable commodity on the open labor market. 

These resignations and the resulting staffing shortages have resulted in increased homicides, shootings, stabbings, armed robberies and residential burglaries. Equally important, the fallout from these resignations has injected fear in city residents, many of whom feel unprotected and underserved by our dwindling police force.

As politicians speak of hiring additional officers, it is vital that they recognize and acknowledge how we got here. They cannot continue to ignore or deny how recent council decisions have forced our city’s police officers to resign in numbers never seen before in the history of San Jose.  They must stop trying to divert blame to union leadership, and accept their personal responsibility for this unnecessary crisis of their own creation. They must additionally recognize that the union—the San Jose Police Officers’ Association — and San Jose’s police officers are one, they cannot be separated.

It is time for San Jose leaders to come clean with the public, and admit that they overpromised and did not spell out the dire consequences of their recent courses of action.  San Jose leaders need to additionally acknowledge that their attempt to break contracts and impose an unlawful ballot measure—Measure B--onto the city’s workforce has directly led to the current mass exodus of experienced workers.  Lastly, San Jose leaders need to acknowledge that SJPOA and other unions proposed legal and substantial pension cost savings that would have allowed officers to join the very same pension plan enjoyed by the Mayor and City Council, CalPERS, and would have also allowed the city to actually begin saving money.

To those that say, “draconian measures were necessary, due to a faltering economy,” I would have you look to the vast majority of cities and counties, near and far, that negotiated and compromised in good faith with their police officers and other valued public servants. They did not experience the turmoil that San Jose has experienced. In fact, many of them are now hiring our officers and other employees.

In the pre-internet age, the difficulty in seeking new job opportunities via newspapers, phone calls, and word of mouth was quite difficult.  Many officers, like myself, who were hired during the 1980’s remember a long and drawn out hiring process that involved driving to various police departments and filling out interest cards. This byzantine system resulted in officers remaining with their current agencies for most, if not all, of their careers.  Further, local governments encouraged officers to remain by offering contractual pension promises that rewarded officers for their long-term commitment to a city. In doing so they saved millions in training costs, which in turn resulted in strong community ties and high quality policing.  In fact, the historical record of San Jose police officer resignations has averaged just four officers per year until 2010.

Today, the advent of the Internet, social networking and an increased demand nationwide for highly trained officers, caused in part by retiring baby boomers, has changed everything. Unlike their predecessors, technology and a competitive labor market allows today’s officers to express their dissatisfaction to wage and benefit cuts—which in San Jose may exceed 46% of their gross income should Measure B ever be implemented—with their resignation. Over the last two years, instead of the historic four officer resignations per year, we now average a stunning 70 resignations per year.

As our new recruits begin to graduate from the police academy, they will soon find, like their veteran colleagues, that their skills are in high demand.  A demand brought on by most cities offering competitive pay and benefits packages.  Our officers are being actively recruited by cities as near as Santa Cruz and Redwood City and as far as Aurora, Colorado and Austin, Texas.

San Jose’s elected leaders and city officials need to adapt to the changing employment landscape, re-evaluate their hard line positions that have put the public's safety at risk and seek compromise.  Real solutions start with an acknowledgment that we have an officer retention problem, and this is a problem for both new and veteran officers. One-sided solutions that favor ideology over reality will not stem the tide of officer resignations.

Like most people today working in private industry, remaining with one employer is a thing of the past unless the pay and benefit package is competitive.  Today’s young recruits, who are even more well versed in technology than our more veteran officers, will likely follow the same path out the door that was blazed by hundreds of former San Jose officers. This is our future unless our politicians can find a way to compromise.

San Jose Police Sergeant John Robb is Vice President of the San Jose Police Officers' Association.

Comments

This is one of the many

This is one of the many reasons we need to remember the bad things they do on election day and make sure they dont get voted in to another term. these career politicians ALWAYS lose their way. we need to keep a tally of which politicians cause the most problems, and fix the least issues and make sure they dont hold another public office in the city again. this is the ONLY way to prevent this from happening

the politicians have long stopped listening to the people. its time to change that. if you do a bad job at work you get fired. it should be no different for them.

SJ Police went from proudly

SJ Police went from proudly protecting to strictly reporting. It a great example of the attack on the middle class!

Walk in Their Shoes

I say we have a "walk in their shoes day". Have the mayor and everyone else who voted for pay cuts spend a day or week as an SJ police officer. Suit up and everything. Have them go face to face with gang bangers and chase people down. Then tell them "sorry we can't pay you for the work you've done, but THANKS!"

My Dad has been an officer for SJ for 30 years. I never heard him complain until recently. Now he drags himself to work. Not because he is less passionate about being a police officer, but because no one appreciates what he and other officers have to face every day.

I hope things get better for the sake of everyone's safety!

I'd leave if I could!!

I'm glad to see SJPD officers speaking with their feet, and leaving for other agencies. I wholeheartedly agree that the new academy graduates with soon realize that their new skills will lead them to greener pastures outside of San Jose.

I've been a San Jose Firefighter for over 10 years, and if fire department recruitment of experienced personnel were the same as with PD, I'd be out of here. I'd gladly take my talent and experience and put it to work somewhere that it's appreciated.

It is sickening to think that

It is sickening to think that the politians we voted in and trusted have lied to the City with all the promises they said they would do for our City! Especially with the "COP OUT STATEMENT" “draconian measures were necessary, due to a faltering economy,” GIVE US A BREAK..our City has faced many challenges past and current, and those that truely want to make a change and are honest find a solution whatever way they can and they don't put blame on anything or anyone..When our State Rep Nora Compos came out with a solution to work with the Sheriffs Dept. it was thrown back at her like a slap in the face..what an insult not just to her but to the whole community that felt we were getting help..it looks like a ego decision vs the right thing to do. Yet Oakland is using her suggestion and the community is really together and working at a solution. We San Jose is a laughing joke to other City's when it comes to the gang problem we have and the Mayor's Gang Task Force, when the Mayor has caused seperation umong the union - Police Officer's Associaton instead of working together for the common good of the people of San Jose. Before the Mayor the neighborhoods knew and welcomed the Police officer's today, no one knows who to trust! They are affraid to complaine due to the understaffing and afraid that temper's and attitudes of the officer's will affect their judgement. Our own daughter was assulted on a street corner coming from her job a Google, she is a teacher for the pre school. someone threw a bat at the passing care when she called, they said it was not a priority call and she can go to the station to make a report. Not till the Fire Dept called and made a stink did they come, by then she was taken to the hospital she had 12 stiches. We as leader's in the community have it very difficult to keep the peace and hope to those that don't understand the politic's. I pray that the Mayor and his follower's humble themselves and admitt that they made some bad decisions, either step down or aside,or just work with the Police Dept. I am certain that this would repescted and we all together can embrace the solution that the Mayor keeps denying to accept and then we can move forward.

Fear in the City

Voters made a BIG mistake when they approved Measure B, and now we are reaping what we sowed. Rather, those who voted "yes" are reaping, the rest of us who voted "no" are suffering. My wrist was broken by a homeless woman on a San Jose Street, after months of me pleading with police and agencies to remove her from our neighborhood. So, who is liable? The city? The transient? No, me! Not only is this unfair to citizens of San Jose, the lack of officers on our beats makes our neighborhoods unsafe. Where we once had 3 police on our beat, now we are down to one, and if he/she is sick, we have none. Where once we had bicycle and horse patrols, now it's each man for himself. I propose that the citizens of San Jose form Neighborhood Watches to pick up the slack left by exiting police. I don't blame police for leaving; they were promised compensation for putting their lives on the line for us, and the city and short-sighted voters took it away. So, doesn't it make sense for those voters to step up to the plate and patrol our city streets?

police officers, firemen and federated employees

Not only has our Mayor and city council been unable to keep the budget together by their mismanangement they have cost the City of San Jose good policemen, firemen and those who worked to keep the structure of San Jose going.
We were not allowed to have social security, as a matter of fact when I first came to work for the City in the 1980's they had stopped us from putting into social security. Why, we were promised that having a private retirement would protect our benefits and that we would always have them. For a lot of us who are now retired and on a fixed income the City has caused us to use up our small savings for our Medical expenses. We are forced to pay for medical the same as those who are still working. The City believed the Mayors lies and voted against those who protected and served and now you too are getting the results of that. I do not blame any worker for the City of San Jose for leaving, if the City cannot keep their promises then the citizens will have to make do with what they have because this is what you wanted, and those who are looking to leave must also provide for their families, and that is no longer an option in San Jose

San Jose Politicians need to buy a vowel

I was once a proud member of the SJPD. For 18 years I suited up each day (in police jargon meaning putting on your vest, lacing your boots, and willingly going and doing what 99.9% of the sane public wouldn't even dare to). I'm not talking about giving out tickets, I'm talking about kicking in doors, serving search warrants, and chasing down felons that have broken into your homes, robbed the corner bank, or just stabbed someone.

Becoming a Police Officer was never about the money. I mean logic showed and REALLY shows now an educated person has much better avenues to pursue if money accumulation is your goal. I had a college degree and actually dropped out of law school to be a SJ Officer. It was never about the money, I felt justly compensated but always promised myself the day I woke and no longer wanted "suit up", i would resign. I made much more as a builder than I ever could as a cop

There were over 1400 officers when had to retire due to a multiple of injuries incurred on the job . I read now there are less than a thousand that are healthy enough to protect and serve. Did the population drop 30% is San Jose in the past 5 years?

When I read the Mayor and other politicians say "I see no correlation between the lower number of officers and the spike in the crime rate". SERIOUSLY!? Does 2 plus 2 no longer equal 4? San Jose just endured the highest homicide rate it has seen in 20 years.

If being a crook is your chosen profession, well, these are promising times. Police staffing is at and all time low, and experienced cops (the ones that know how to track you down) have left in droves for better money, retirement, and frankly to feel appreciated by the citizens they serve. Repeat the numbers, until a few years ago 4 officer resignations a year, NOW seventy a year! Simple math Mayor.

Nothing against the new officers (rookies), but it will take you 3-5 years before you know what being a real cop means. I just hope when you by the time you figure it out, the city has learned a valuable lessen (and how to add and subtract) and you still choose to "suit up".

I am shocked and appauled

Wow !!!! I am shocked and appauled, this is serious. I am from East San Jose was born and raised here all my life then left San Jose in 2005 to live in Las Vagas Nv.I had no idea how serious the crime and homicide crime delema was,since I've been gone from San Jose for about 8 yrs and now getting ready to move back home I've been hearing stories about homicide stabbings,shooting,rape,murders etc. And a lot of these murders are taking place mostly in East San Jose now I'm hearing about gangs are now starting to grow even larger out here and more crimes are being committed out here. This is not the San Jose I use to know, I remember back then we had a large Gang Task Force and they cleaned up the East side of San Jose community they were cracking down on all Gangs and Drug Dealers and cleaning the community up. Who ever this Mayer is it's time for the people of San Jose to get him out of office and the way to do that is the community has to come together and have him fired by voting him out. I'm for sure will be invovled in my voting process to vote him out of office when it comes for election time for a new Mayor. This is so upsetting to hear, especially in my hometown this is not right for are community to lay off are police force and lower there pay salary just because there using the Economy as an excuse to why the city can't affored to keep are cops on the streets that's a bunch of malarcky. I hope are city will come together and get rid of these politicians we don't need corrupt politics in are city just so the city can save a dime I know are city not that broke. Somebodys salarie is well over paid thru the tax dollars of the San Jose tax payers. Something needs to be done.

Flabbergasted

I was never a big "fan" of law enforcement, but have always understood the need. Having read your columns, I now feel honor bound to actually thank our SJPD officers for showing up to work! OMG; there simply must be someone willing to defend the defenseless, and chase the bad-guys. The idea that we can do just fine without law enforcement is a joke. Your presence makes the weak and infirm feel secure, and the panic-stricken calm.

I will continue to pay attention to your postings, and help push my considerable number of kids (young adults now) to understand and back some much needed revision to your pay & pension structure.

Nobody should have to work while underpaid. Nobody should put themselves in harms way, if they cannot feel reasonably sure there are measures in place to extract them from it, and more measures in place to take care of your personal business, should plans go awry.

I am very grateful for the officers we have. THANK YOU!!

Education and Public safety

Education and Public safety should never be compromised or cut in any budgets. Tell all the politician to live like normal people and cut on all their extravagant expenses and put the money were it belongs. Not in extravagant lunches and travel.

I will alway support law enforcement and education. Without either our society will deteriorate very fast.

Unfathomable

It is unfathomable that such a large thriving city like San Jose cannot adequately compensate their police officers. It's all about choices. This is not a new story, as city officials choose to spend funds to further their personal agendas and not meet their financial responsibilities to those who matter most. As a retired police lieutenant and former San Jose resident, I am disgusted with what I know about the irresponsible behavior by city officials. San Jose is a violent city, regardless of what the manipulated crime stats show. God bless those who continue the fight against crime in San Jose and keep the residents safe.

Lets vote on more officers. Put up a tax!

As someone who has lived in San Jose all my life, I feel I have a good perspective on this. I grew up on the West Side for most of life and now live on the East Side by Alum Rock Road.

I was not aware of all the budgeting and retention issues we have. However, I have noticed a decline in the number of officers that frequent our neighborhood. If we want to fix this issue and if money is the problem, I purpose we offer up a tax! Jerry Brown showed you can take issues to the people and they will rally behind a cause. In his case it was education.

But to me its that simple. If I have to pay small percentage, say a half point, to fund us having more officers, ill do it! I don't mind paying a little more so my family and the community can feel safer! Many others probably feel the same way. I'm tired of the same old Republican line that we need to keep cutting taxes. Well guess what people, services cost money!

I was ok with the payroll tax going back to its normal rate to pay for Social Security, And I don't mind to pay a little more for more cops and safer streets. I think most people would agree.

Now someone write it up and lets vote on it!

Bravo!

I agree 100%. Roads don't build themselves, and skilled teachers, firefighters and law enforcement officers aren't going to work for free. I don't understand why folks are always wanting to cut taxes. If we don't all chip in for the good of our society, who else is going to pay for it? The private sector? No thanks. A) They'd still have to be paid; and B) Less checks and balances if some private company is running our law enforcement.

Lets vote out these draconian

Lets vote out these draconian politician.

Lets stop the politicians.

Lets stop the politicians. Lets stop any political future of the draconian Measure B authors - San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen!