It’s probably worth reminiscing a little about the way things used to be. In October 2009, SanJose.com ran the following story: “San Jose has reason to be proud. Forbes magazine listed the city as the nation’s eighth safest. The list was based on four specific factors: violent crime, workplace fatality rates, traffic death rates, and natural disaster risks. The city scored relatively high in the first three categories—it was ranked the second safest city for violent crime, after Portland. The greatest problem it faced was “natural disaster risk,” in which it placed 38th. … San Jose is ranked slightly above New York—while we may have our earthquakes and fires, The Big Apple has far more violent crime.”
But that was then and this is now. We’ve already seen as many murders this year as in the first six months of last year. Budget cuts are in the air again, and the SJPD is being warned that a 10 percent pay cut will save 112 police jobs. Warned? Yes, because, as the Police Officers Association says, even that is not enough to save another 237 jobs ensuring public safety.
The Police Officers Association does recognize that steps have to be taken to protect jobs … and the city. The POA says it is willing to target sick leave payouts and vacation day buybacks—the kinds of payments that led to Rob Davis retiring with almost $300,000 in unused sick leave. “We can see the excesses of that,” says POA Vice President Jim Unland. “I can’t defend that nor will I try, so we’re okay with trying to rein in some of those excesses.”
But the POA will still be fighting to protect all the jobs of all of its officers, according to its President George Beattie. “Quite frankly,” he says, “with our staffing we can’t afford to lose one officer, let alone 237.”
The Union is fighting back, and while matters haven’t reached a Wisconsin level here, the union has already taken out a full page newspaper ad, and are planning new billboards for next week. Other projects in the works even include a TV commercial.
Negotiations between the City and the POA will resume next Monday. As the fight gathers steam, however, it looks like it will be taking place not only behind closed doors at City Hall but on TV and along the highways too. The fight comes with a clear message. The SJPD—and city officials—want to ensure that San Jose gets relisted in Forbes as one of the safest cities in America. They can’t afford not to be listed there.