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By August 24, 2015 Read More →

POA Leaders Cautiously Optimistic

Paul Kelly, President, San Jose Police Officers Association

“The demonization of city employees, especially police officers, which the last mayor shamefully stoked, angered our members, and the effects will not soon be forgotten. The transition to trying to work together with the City is a difficult one. Only when we are able to move past that history we will be able to say that things are fixed.” – Paul Kelly, President, San Jose Police Officers Association

by Paul Kelly and James Gonzalez

According to the Yahoo Internet Dictionary, the definition of “change” is: 1. the act or instance of making or becoming different; 2. the substitution of one thing for another; 3. an alteration of one thing for another.

We have changed! While we hope it’s for the better, one thing is for sure. We will never be quite the same again. Collectively we remain wary and suspicious, and rightly so. We know, for example, that as we deliberated about whether to vote “yes” or “no” on our global settlement package, the question of non-pensionable retention pay was a huge issue.

Some officers thought it was too risky to open that “door.” Would the City exploit it later? Try to make parts of every raise non-pensionable in the future, rather than recognizing that these were unique times that required unique solutions to address them?

Officers wondered aloud whether the Measure B settlement could be worked through at a later time. The sheer scale of the Global Fix was disconcerting to some—a proverbial feast after the famine of positive labor relations in recent years. It was so broad in its scope that some suspected that the City had to be lying about something. There had to be a “catch.”

The more we thought about it all, the more we asked ourselves: Is this too good to be true? Were we really, after all the heartache and animosity, on the brink of eliminating Measure B and starting the long job of turning the ship around?

Members rightly pressed us on whether we were doing too much, too soon. Did we let down our guard? We don’t think so—and that’s a view shared by our negotiating team, many of whom have been at the forefront fighting Measure B since it was first proposed.

As we write this article, we think about the questions I (Paul) was asked at the press conference with the Mayor and City Council members on August 14, when we announced the finalization of this deal. I was asked whether the POA would have taken this deal four years ago. I was asked whether we can now retain officers and whether this agreement fixes everything.

These are good questions, and I answered them as well as I could. Yes, we absolutely would have taken this deal four years ago. We offered terms to the City that, arguably, were more favorable to the City in March of 2012 (before Measure B went to the voters) and in June of 2014 (in the settlement talks with Ed Shikada). All of this turmoil could have been avoided. But we needed a partner on the City side. It just took us four years to find one.

Will we retain officers? That is our hope. The new pay deal will help. But we are still nowhere near where we need to be in the market. Police departments throughout the Bay Area are aggressively hiring officers. And fewer and fewer quality candidates are available for them to hire. This will continue to drive up the market rates of pay and in all likelihood we will be playing catch up for the foreseeable future. But—and this leads into answering whether this fixes everything—there’s another piece to retaining officers. We had something special going here at San Jose PD. There was something beyond the compensation package that made us a magnet agency. The memory of that kept many of you from going to other agencies, even through the darkest times of the Measure B fiasco.

But aside from our lack of competitiveness in recent years, something else changed the dynamic. The demonization of city employees, especially police officers, which the last mayor shamefully stoked, angered our members and the effects of it will not soon be forgotten. The transition from fighting for so long to trying to work together with the City is a difficult one. In my view, it will only be once we are able to move past that history that we will be able to say that things are fixed.

And, of course, let’s not forget that we also need to begin attracting new officers, including former San Jose officers back. There have been some promising early developments but, understandably, few officers are going to want to return until the Settlement Framework is fully implemented.

To conclude, it is a very long journey, but it is one that—like all journeys—starts with the first step. With this Settlement Framework, we believe we have taken a significant first step toward reaching our collective goal of repairing our police department.

We hope that, a year from now, when we 87 (hook up) in the field to get our coffee we aren’t talking about the damn city government and how we were made scapegoats, but instead we are talking about our last pinch and some feel-good story about someone we helped the day before.

Changed? Yes, we are, and hopefully there’s more positive CHANGE to come.

(Note that we are writing this article 5 days before the City Council votes on the Global Settlement Agreement with the POA and SJ Firefighters Union Local 230 and our MOA)

Paul Kelly and James Gonzalez are the president and vice president, respectively, of the San Jose Police Officers Association.

Posted in: Reaching Out

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