Now much of what Larry cites in this article from Lackie (etc) has been discussed in other places before, including on this blog. The tactics employed by these folks are ruthless, yet have often been effective for those they represent. But what impressed me about this particular column from the sometimes maligned Mr. Wilson is his description of how exactly this negotiating dynamic works. In my opinion he pretty much nails it.
For 20 years, smart and greedy lawyers have shown police unions how to pressure dumb and gullible politicians into giving officers too much in both salaries and benefits. Not too much in a perfect world - just too much in the one we live in. We know what the lawyers have advised officers' associations to do - guilt trip the electeds, give money to their campaigns, use crime as a wedge issue in order to scare the public, use work slowdowns and the blue flu to get what you want.
Some pretty good screed there. So what I'm doing today is reposting an article that first appeared on The Tattler way back on April 17 of 2009, along with the original 23 comments. (New comments are welcome, of course.) Not sure how many of you have seen any of this because it was written when the readership of this blog was not quite as prodigious as it is today. But please keep in mind what Larry describes above as you read this column. Because as Sierra Madre goes into negotiations with our police officers and their union on a new MOU, we will need to keep these lessons in mind.
How The Police Officers' Association (POA) Got Business Done (Tattler - April 17, 2009)
In what was probably one of the most extreme cases of "Little Miss Sunshine" syndrome I have ever read, the Mountain Views "Observer" on 12/21/07 ran the following giddy headline.
Sierra Madre And Police Reach 'Historic Agreement' - "It ends years of discord between the city and POA" - Mayor Joffe
Discord that resumed a few short months later after the passage of the Utility User Tax hike with a Police Officers Association initiated lawsuit against the City of Sierra Madre. Apparently this short love match was only a one-sided affair, with this caddish Police Officers Association quickly leaving (by then former) Mayor Joffe at the altar. Oh, and the taxpayers of Sierra Madre holding the very large bill both parties left behind.
The MVO article continued with this little bit of unmedicated delirium:
"Everyone clapped, cheered and shook hands as the City Council approved during a special meeting Tuesday night, the first police pay raise in years. The increase is subject, however, to Sierra Madre voters approving an increased Utility Users Tax on April 8, 2008."
Of course, not everyone was quite that chipper. Many who read the agreement worked out by Mayor Joffe and the POA realized that this, along with a much higher UUT rate, was going to be a large new financial burden on the City's taxpayers. And there were even those cynics who took this to actually be a fairly serious defeat for the City of Sierra Madre, with the joy offensive by the paper merely an attempt to put a pretty face on it all. All something that could very well have hurt the re-election chances of MVO darlings Enid Joffe and John Buchanan if not properly spun.
So who is this Police Officers Association that so completely took City Hall to the cleaners? Turns out that its leadership isn't quite as local as you might have assumed. Here's a passage from a March 21, 2009 article in the Union Tribune dealing with an acrimonious Police labor dispute in Escondido.
"The association should be like a quiet giant in the position of, 'Do as I ask and don't p--- me off,' the law firm advises ... As the fight between the City and the Escondido Police Officers Association unfolds, the association appears to be taking some of its cues from the hardball battle plan devised by Lackie, Dammeier & McGill of Upland, which is representing the association in negotiations ... The law firm was founded by a former deputy sheriff, Michael Lackie, and a former police officer, Dieter Dammeier, and represents more than 120 public safety unions in California."
Among those 120 "public safety unions" represented by these gentlemen is the Sierra Madre Police Officers Organization. And if you recognized the names of Lackie and Dammeier you get extra points because those are the two gentlemen that won for their clients this stunning victory at the expense of Sierra Madre.
How they did it really shouldn't be all that big a secret to anyone. Because if you go to the Lackie, Dammeier & McGill website, you will actually be able to read all about the kinds of hardball tactics that have made them the leaders in their field. Some of which you might recognize from what happened here in Sierra Madre.
In a March 23, 2009 piece called "Caring for union cops, not their bully tactics," syndicated columnist Logan Jenkins highlighted a few of them for us:
* Storm City Council: No meeting should take place without association members publicly chastising council members for their lack of concern for public safety.
* Billboards: Nothing seems to get more attention than a billboard entering the city limits which reads that crime is up and the City could care less about your safety. The message being City councils love crime and hate safety. (Remember all those Arcadia billboards last year?)
* Job Fair: Encourage cops to sign up at job fairs, sending an alarming, but false, signal of imminent flight from the department, leaving virtually no one to protect the public from gangs, parolees and sex offenders.
* Work Slowdown: Drive the speed limit, make investigations as time-consuming as possible, while "asking for back-up on most calls." In other words, perform the job in malingering slo-mo, thus inflating the need for more officers and better pay and benefits.
* Focus on an individual: "Avoid spreading your energy. Focus on a city manager, council person, mayor or police chief and keep pressure on until that person assures you of his loyalty and then move on to the next victim." Victim? You heard it right.
* Press Conferences: "Every high-profile crime that takes place should result in the association's uproar at the governing body for not having enough officers on the street, which could have avoided the incident." Read: Exploit suffering, fear and anger.
* In its summation, Lackie, Dammeier & McGill acknowledges that cops often come up with their own variations on the theme of beating public officials into submission. "Just keep in mind, the idea is to annoy your opponents into giving in to your position and almost equally as important, to let them know that next time they should agree with you much sooner."
In the same issue of the MVO cited at the beginning of this article, then Mayor Enid Joffe, in her "Coffee with Joffe" column for that week (grandly entitled "Peace In Our Time?"), had this to say:
"The entire MOU (Memo Of Understanding) is conditioned on the passage of the proposed Utility User Tax (UUT) ballot initiative approved by the City Council on December 18th. Without approval of the Measure, the POA agreement is null and void, and we will all go back to our previous adversarial positions."
I can only assume that by "adversarial positions" the mayor was referring to a possible return by the POA to the kinds of hardball tactics described on the Lackie, Dammeier & McGill website. The ones that drove City Hall to cry uncle and get their MOU on.
Which, judging how the UUT vote turned out, worked quite well for our Police Department.