The cause of the situation we are about to explore today is the recent initiative presented by our City Council to find a way to cut the General Fund budget through out-sourcing some of our city services. And since the Sierra Madre Police Department will soon account for 52% of that General Fund, it is only natural that other law enforcement options be at least explored.
The first nugget of half-truth comes from the article on our possibly "contracting out for police services" that ran last Friday in the Pasadena Star News. In this piece Sierra Madre City Councilman Joe Mosca attempts to make a case for maintaining our Police Force exactly as it is today. His reason for this being the wonderful sense of community and shared responsibility they enjoy with the residents of this town.
"Having your own police department, from a community perspective, allows for the type of policing that Sierra Madreans have become accustomed to," Mosca said. "The police know the residents' names, know the folks in the community, and work with residents to make sure the streets of Sierra Madre are as safe as possible."
(Where I grew up you actually didn't want the Police to know your name. And if they did it was for reasons you wished had never happened. But that's something we can talk about another time.)
Now Joe's description here makes the current condition sound down right paradisiacal. A community working together with its Police to keep the town not just free of criminals and crime, but also to build a society based on trust and caring. The kind of synergy that most people hope for in a community, but so rarely exists out there in the real world.
And here's the comparison. Over on the Sierra Madre Weekly site there is a rather rambling letter from someone identifying themself as being a "Local law enforcement employee." And the viewpoint that "Llee" shares with us certainly does not mesh with what we're hearing from Joe. It is a rather long piece of writing, so we're going to pull out a single salient portion of this interesting and revealing post and trust you the reader to check out the whole thing on your own later. Believe me, it's worth it.
If you want officers to treat SMPD and your city as more than a door mat they use to get their foot in the law enforcement door, then pay them fairly and treat them with respect. Their equipment is substandard compared to other agencies because they do penny-pinch whether you know it or not. If you want officers to act professionally, then give them a decent wage. If you do not, don't expect them to stick around long enough to really care about your city and your problems. The citizens overwhelmingly ooze a disrespectful attitude towards police employees. I for one could not tolerate serving people like those that live in this city. High maintenance residents and business owners forcing officers to be at their beck and call is worth much more than what they're paid. Officers are required to swallow their pride, and be YES-men and women and basically do whatever the residents want. What six figure would SM residents demand in pay to roll over and put up with the BS like the SMPD employees have to?
Now I might be reading a little too much into this, but don't the accounts of Joe Mosca and "Llee" strike you as being a bit distant from one another? The first would have us think that everything is just as good as it could possibly be, while the other speaks of an oppressed force crushed under the boot of an ungrateful and self-indulgent community of privileged career adolescents.
One question that I would have for "Llee" is exactly how is this oozing disrespect shown to the officers of the SMPD? Do the "high maintenance" taxpayers here habitually stick out their tongues at our men in blue? Do they regularly assault them with haughty looks and high hat attitudes? Have there been cruel and insensitive instances of mooning? Obviously I am not clear on this point.
So is there any real truth to be found in either of these two accounts? Probably not. One is the voice of a disingenuous politician fighting to keep a 100% tax hike in place for reasons that I doubt have much to do with cops. The other an unidentified individual regurgitating a technique straight out of the Lackie & Dammeier "Police Officers' Association" handbook on how to deal with situations like the one I described earlier.
Most of the cops in this part of the world are represented by something called the Police Officers' Association, or POA. And this POA is an organization put together by a law firm called Lackie & Dammeier. These two gents, former police officers themselves, have made quite a lucrative career for themselves representing officers from towns such as ours. And they've done it by using some extremely aggressive techniques. And a few of these aggressive techniques are alluded to in "Llee's" post on the SMW website.
Here are a couple of pithy pieces of advice offered by Lackie & Dammeier:
Public Message - Always keep this in mind. The public could care less about your pay, medical coverage and pension plan. All they want to know is "what is in it for them." Any public positions or statements by the association should always keep that in focus.
Isn't that pretty much the gist of what "Llee" says in the post made on the SMW site? That we, the civilian population of Sierra Madre, only care about ourselves? And that the needs of the Police are really of no concern to us?
Here's another nugget:
Public Ridicule - Blunders by the City Manager, Mayor, or City Council members ... should be highlighted and pointed out to the public at every opportunity.
From the perspective of "Llee" the blunder here is the City Council not paying the SMPD as much as he/she thinks they should. The consequence being the endangerment of the residents of Sierra Madre by causing experienced officers to leave for better paying cities, among other things.
So there you go, the tale of two planets. Both with their own distinct agendas, and neither willing to share their thoughts in an upfront and honest way. Obviously we need to turn our backs on both and chart a course that best serves the needs of the people actually paying the bills around here. Because if we don't this nonsense will just go on and on.