Category: Public News

Channel 13 News Story on Officer Pay and Retention

Click Here for the video Channel 13 did on our poor pay and how it is affecting retention.  TPOA continues to bring this issue forward with City Staff.  Provided is the text to the story below.

 

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) –It wasn't that long ago Tucson Police Department had more than 1,100 officers protecting this community.  Today, that number is 928 and dwindling. Why?
Because veteran cops are leaving TPD at an alarming rate. At least 130 have resigned and moved onto other agencies since 2010, while a total of 330 have left the department for various reasons since 2008.
Couple that with an additional 70 officers set to retire by the end of next year – and what you have is a full-blown staffing issue that could impact police protection in our community.
"In your opinion, is public safety compromised in any way because of what we're going through right now?" Tucson News Now asks City Council member Steve Kozachik.
"Sure it is, sure it is,” says Kozachik, who represents Tucson's Ward 6.  "And if the chief of police was honest with you, he'd stand up and say yes it is too."
"I disagree with that," says Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor.  "Because it's not going to hit the numbers where we're not going to have good people here to handle the issues and handle the scenes.”
Villasenor's seen the resignation letters on his desk, as many as a dozen in just one week earlier this year.
Still, with a new class of recruits just graduating and another academy currently underway, Villasenor says vacancies are being filled.
"I think we've lost some great officers, but I also think that we haven't compromised public safety with the officers we lose because we're still recruiting," Villasenor says.
But to senior officers like Roland Gutierrez — who's also the president of the Tucson Police Officers Association — filling positions with new recruits isn't always a good thing.
"My safety is always compromised because not only do we have less officers on the streets, but we have inexperienced officers," Gutierrez says. "This is definitely a safety concern for all of us.”
Then again, TPD isn't alone when it comes to inexperienced personnel. Departments everywhere, even right here in Tucson, target veteran officers from other agencies. But sometimes that recruitment hits a little too close to home.
It's one thing to lose officers to attrition, retirement or a possible career change. But it's something entirely different to lose officers to rival agencies, who are literally recruiting some of TPD's finest right outside their front door.
That's what happened last week when Union Pacific Police parked a trailer just feet from TPD's West-Side Substation.

"It was basically the agency recruiting with a sign on their trailer that said, ‘Hiring laterals now,'"says Roland Gutierrez, TPOA president.  "It's not only bad etiquette, but it's also opening the doors, making officers who are already thinking about leaving – it's making them think even harder." 

TPD officials were pretty upset when they saw this and a phone call to Union Pacific promptly led to the trailer being hauled away. But TPD's issue of officer retention still exists.

At Union Pacific, entry-level officers make about $10,000 more than they would at TPD, where officers start at $46,000 per year.

Similar increases are available at Marana, Oro Valley and numerous other agencies across the region and state.

"You might be able to walk in the door at a higher pay rate, but you're gonna be sitting at that rate for the next 10, 12 years," Councilman Kozachik says of the other agencies. "Is that really worth it?"

What TPD has to offer, city officials say, is upward mobility. Remember all those officers retiring next year?

Those positions will have to be filled as well: everything from mid-level managers to command staff, even Tucson's next chief of police.

"I understand taking care of their family is their number one priority," says Chief Villasenor, who's among the 70 officers retiring from TPD next year.

"I don't fault anyone who uses that as motivation, but I want them to look at the big picture of seeing what they'll be giving up if they leave, because things will get better here," he says.

Interestingly enough, the city set aside $11 million last year for recruitment and retention purposes.  But because TPD couldn't find enough recruits to fill their academies, that money went back into the city's general fund.

Cops will ask why couldn't some of that money be used for merit increases or at least cost of living raises?

That's a very good question.

One that could very well be raised again the next time mayor/council consider officer salaries.


Copyright 2014 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

K-9 Ivan

For over 8 years now I have had the distinct honor of spending every day working with heroes. Not “heroes” that play sports but true heroes to mankind. I have worked with the select few that are allowed to handle these heroes. Across the state, across the country and even around the world these heroes work silently in the background. They never ask for credit, awards or time off. They are eager to work no matter the weather or the time. Their ultimate reward is knowing that their handler, their partner, is happy with the job they did. A simple “good boy” is always enough but I’ve never met a handler who felt that was enough. There are toys, treats, pets and hugs for these heroes. However, there are times when these heroes do more than we could ever ask. We ask that these dogs find people, find drugs, find bombs, sit when they are told… As if that wasn’t enough, we also ask them to be first on everything we do. They are the first ones into a building. They pull their handler along during the dark search in the desert. They are first so that they can protect their handlers and all of the officers that are with them. When the most evil of evil are at large, these heroes search high and low and try to bring the evil to justice. Last night K-9 Ivan was sent to apprehend evil. He didn’t hesitate, he didn’t ask why, he went. He went first. He went so that he could protect his partner and the officers that were with them.

Ivan’s heroism did not end at that scene. Ivan fought for his life once he was at the vet hospital. He tried with all his might to stay with his handler but the damage was too great. I watched as this hero lost his battle and entered his final rest. I am proud to say that I worked with K-9 Ivan and Ofc. Chris Fenoglio. I am proud of the heroism that they showed last night.

On behalf of the Tucson Police Officer’s Association I would like to extend a huge thank you to Valley Animal Hospital, and all of the officers and civlian staff that helped in so many different ways last night. To Ofc. Chris Fenoglio, we extend all of our prayers, well wishes and our promise that anything you need, we will be there for you. To K-9 Ivan… Thank you for saving the lives of your handler and the officers that were with him. Rest in peace and “good boy”.

Paul Sheldon – TPOA Secretary and TPD K-9 Handler

Unacceptable Response Times

     Recently, KGUN 9 reported on a story of a burglary victim who had to wait 8 hours for the Tucson Police Department to respond to his residence and take the report. That gentleman felt that an 8 hour wait time for a police officer was unacceptable. During KGUN 9’s investigation they also spoke to Lt. Early, Chief Villasenor and City Council members Steve Kozachik and Paul Cunningham. All of them also agreed 8 hours to wait for an officer was unacceptable. The Tucson Police Officer’s Association would like to agree with all of these gentlemen and KGUN 9’s investigation. We would also like to extend our apologies to all crime victims who have had to wait for an extended period for police response. As law enforcement professionals we would like to be able to respond to all calls for service in a timely manner. Better than that, we would like to have the ability to be pro-active during our work shift and prevent crime rather than just report the results.

     For the last 5 years the Mayor and City Council have had numerous budget problems. Their response to these problems has been to consistently use public safety as a band aid. Budget cuts, hiring freezes, furloughs, rising benefit costs and ignoring the promises and contracts that they made to their employees. Currently, the police department operates with more than 200 fewer officers then they did 10 years ago. These officers have seen a dramatic increase in calls for service and have been expected to continue to provide professional and fast service. The demands of the job have not changed. The scrutiny and expectations remain high. The accountability for our expenses is conducted with a level of professionalism that is unmatched by any other city department. The reward for our continued professionalism has been to watch as the city places its financial priorities on everything except public safety. As we already discussed, the city is looking for ways to subsidize the streetcar.  There is also talk of subsidizing even more money to Suntran. There was also the recent discovery that a sculptor who has done no work received a pay raise for agreeing to do half of what the original contract was and all penalties were waived. These are just a few examples of the fiscal mistakes that are being made.

      If recent history has taught us anything, we already know that the first option will be to take more money from public safety. City leadership continues to use the backs of public safety employees at a cost that is only beginning to surface. There are veteran officers who have never received a pay raise. There are officers who have been promised, contractually, that their pay would remain competitive with other Arizona agencies. This year alone, over 23 of our former Tucson police officers have learned that their pay is no longer competitive and neighboring agencies can offer more, better and less work because they are staffed better. The focus of our city management needs to be on retention of our current, qualified and experienced officers who have met the financial challenges of the city with the same professionalism and tenacity, as one would expect of a police officer. It is time for the city to thank those officers and keep the promises they made to them. If they do not, we can expect the exodus of experienced and multi-talented officers to continue. We are already facing a historical exodus of retirees and our current hire rate does not even compensate for that fully. Without assurance from our city leadership that they are willing to make public safety and officer retention their number one priority we will see 8 hour response times become the norm.

     You can help! Make your priorities known to your local leadership. Call, email, write or attend a city council meeting and let your voice be heard. Public safety has to be our number one priority and keeping the experienced, talented and overly patient officers we currently have has to be part of that.

 

Funding the Streetcar – http://www.kgun9.com/news/local/174696081.html

4th Ave Statue story – http://azstarnet.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/city-waits-and-waits-for-th-ave-statue/article_aa4c7137-9b62-520d-a478-1183c53e852c.html

 

KGUN 9 On Your Side Response Time story –

Council Member Paul Cunningham interview – http://www.kgun9.com/news/local/179230311.html

Council Member Steve Kozachik interview – http://www.kgun9.com/news/local/178281211.html

 

Streetcar vs. Public Safety

This story was started by the Arizona Daily Star and now has now been picked up by KGUN 9. The streetcar costs have already gone over budget and the costs for running it will be drawn from the City's general fund. Over the last 5 years, the City of Tucson has looked to plug holes in it's budget by taking from the exact people who work the hardest to keep the city going. COT employees have endured rising benefit costs, lower pay, elimination of merit increases, furloughs, lay offs and even the elimination of positions. When is enough enough? When will the City of Tucson prioritize correctly and realize that public safety is far more important than any streetcar? It is time for all of us to remind our Mayor and City Council what our prioirities are and exactly what our city budget should be paying for. A streetcar? Suntran? Failing golf courses? New zoo attractions? Below you will find the email addresses for the Mayor, City Manager and City Council. Make your opinion known and make your voice heard. You will also find the City Council Meeting Schedule, they do a "Call to the Audience" at every meeting so you can tell them in person what is most important to you.

http://www.kgun9.com/news/local/174696081.html

http://azstarnet.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/st-yr-streetcar-subsidy-is-m/image_03c10d91-10d6-5c46-848f-d417c404e0ef.html

 

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild – [email protected]

City Manager Richard Miranda – [email protected]

Ward 1 Council Member Regina Romero – [email protected]

Ward 2 Council Member Paul Cunningham – [email protected]

Ward 3 Council Member/Vice Mayor Karin Uhlich – [email protected]

Ward 4 Council Member Shirley Scott – [email protected]

Ward 5 Council Member Richard Fimbres – [email protected]

Ward 6 Council Member Steve Kozachik – [email protected]

Upcoming City Council Meetings

Follow this link to get the schedule and rules for the "Call to the Audience"

http://cms3.tucsonaz.gov/files/clerks/2012_revised_meeting_schedule.pdf