Thursday, August 27, 2009

How The Police Officers' Association (POA) Beat Rialto's City Council & Kept Out The Sheriffs

A small city ridding itself of a police department it no longer wants is hardly a unique situation. The economics alone have caused more than a few cities in Los Angeles County to rethink their current law enforcement situation and bring in the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. And apparently these cities have felt the move they made was the right one. After all, when is the last time you've heard of a town that canned the L.A. County Sheriffs and brought back their Police Department? In this situation it appears that the street is strictly one way.

Now in 2005 the City of Rialto in San Bernardino County went through the process of shedding its Police Department, mostly as a money saving exercise. Their department was apparently nothing out of the ordinary, any possible consequences in making the change were deemed to be negligible, so why not do the economically prudent thing and make the change? And in September of 2005 the Rialto City Council voted 4 to 1 to get rid of their cops. And within 24 hours the Sheriffs were in town and taking inventory of Rialto's law enforcement gear. Done deal, right?

Turns out that was not the case. In an article on the Lackie, Dammier & McGill site, they describe how the Rialto POA fought back and rescued a department that was for all intents and purposes already booted out the door. And what we'll discuss here are the kinds of tactics Sierra Madre might face should we decide to go down this road.

Much of the discussion in the first part of the article describes legal shenanigans the POA engaged in to stall the department's demise. The police union was helped by a City Attorney who made some atrocious calls, various Court restraining orders and injunctions, plus the POA engaged liberally in the practice they're most famous for, which is filing lawsuits. And when the City Administrator made the mistake of saying that the filing of so many lawsuits was one of the reasons for the City Council wanting to shed their litigious boys in blue, the POA went to Court and sued over that as well. Claiming that P.D. lawsuits were a reason for disbanding the department was interpreted there as being a form of "retaliation against officers protecting their rights and filing litigation." And as a result the accusation of "union busting" was hung on the Rialto City Council as well.

But all that was intended for one purpose, to buy some time. Because the real fight in the Battle of Rialto was the political one. The Police Department needed to line up support from the people of Rialto to overcome the decision made by their City Council. And the thing they relied upon most was the sympathy most citizens have for Police. In this article 3 different political tactics used by the POA are described, all of which involved the use of petitions. As in Sierra Madre, the POA felt confident that should their wishes be brought before the public, they would gain a place on the ballot and win any vote.

"... Lackie, Dammeier & McGill drafted a ballot initiative to place the issue on the next ballot of whether the City Council should have the sole authority to contract out police services without voter approval. Rialto's citizens assisted in gathering signatures for the initiative and it was submitted to the City Clerk."


"Recall petitions of two city council members were drafted and served."

Now attempting to go over the head of the City Council and in the process take away their ability to make these kinds of decisions is a pretty gutsy move. As is threatening 2 City Council members with recall. Basically the POA was engaging in some very serious challenges to the very authority of Rialto's municipal government. But in order for this to work the POA needed to have strong support from the citizens. Our Police Department had that kind of support when they initiated the petition drive to win themselves a raise. It was widely felt in Sierra Madre that the cops were vastly underpaid and deserved a pay hike. But would that same level of support and sympathy be there today should the City Council decide to get rid of them? Given the unfortunate events of the last year or so, I wouldn't automatically go to that particular assumption.

This next one is rather diabolical, though.

The City in 2003, with the assistance of the RPOA, passed a utility user's tax which passed by only 5 votes of the residents. Since the public was sold on the idea that the tax would be for public safety, and given the City's pursuit of disbanding the police department, the RPOA felt the citizens should not have to continue paying this tax. Accordingly, Lackie, Dammeier & McGill drafted a ballot initiative repealing the utility user's tax should the police department be disbanded. Since this tax amounted to over 25% of the City's general fund, this elimination, which would have easily been approved by the voters, would have been financially devastating to the City.

Now that is quite an ingenious ploy. As we have seen by the inertia displayed by our City Council on the matter of rectifying by means of a revote the botched math used in dunning Sierra Madre into voting itself a 100% UUT hike, giving up tax revenue is not something such folks do easily. And this had to have been taking by the Rialto City Hall bunch as being quite a serious threat.

But here's a thought. What if this was interpreted differently? What if the voters were told that by approving the disbanding of the SMPD they would also qualify for a tax cut? Since our police account for 52% of our General Fund expenditures (before law suit expenses, of course), there certainly would be some considerable savings here. I can imagine that some might even see this as being a kind of win-win situation.

Anyway, less than a year later, and after 7 lawsuits, 2 recall efforts, a referendum and two ballot initiatives, plus all that yapping from the deluded residents, the Rialto City Council surrendered. And not only that, they had to shell out $118,000 to pay all the RPOA's legal costs. Quite a humiliation for those guys.

Here is the lesson as I see it. In order for any POA to win, it needs a lot of support from the residents. And we saw that kind of support when this City voted itself a 100% tax hike to give our police a raise. (I didn't vote for Measure U, and to this day I regard it as having been an instance of municipal insanity to have been put it on the ballot without first doing the audits, but that's just me.) Now the public has a lot of sympathy for police. It seems to be an instinctual thing for many, and therefore a challenge to overcome. But the SMPOA has been to that well once already. And many people supported that effort because they thought it would solve all the problems and our cops would become an okey dokey local police department that everyone can like.

But is that what our fiscal sacrifices have gotten us? Or has the Sierra Madre Police Department, through its massive ticket issuing, constant and often petty law suits, surly demeanors, and those other events, squandered the support it once enjoyed here?

That this question can even be considered now is a sign of just how far they've fallen.


  1. So if we do what we're supposed to do by these guys, they sue
    us. And if we try to remedy the situation by removing the source
    of the lawsuits, they sue us.

    Which I guess makes the POA a kind of invasive parasite.

  2. I haven't been able to find 1 case of a Sheriff shooting a sleeping person in a car.... Just an observation.

  3. It's another example of the strong arm thuggery we are forced to expect.Intimidation by Lawsuit.It' ironic to watch the "Guardians of the {law} resort to gangsterism .

  4. Economically, the LA Sheriff Dept provides communities like La Canada protection at a fraction of what our city pays. However, the SMPD are safe because there are not three members of the council who have the courage to stand up to the POA.

  5. 8:03 - looks like that sleeping person woke up after he took the bullet, got well, and is now suing the crap out of Sierra Madre. And the officer who pulled the trigger? Back on duty.

    Now doesn't that make you feel safe?

  6. This would be an ugly divorce but the children (residents) would be better off having the abusive parent (SMPD) out of the house.

  7. The police don’t like their pay, their hours, their benefits, their captain, their employer, or the residents. The police are no different than an ungrateful spoiled child. If things are so awful here, they should leave. Let them find another “cushy” job. I am certain there are many fine sheriffs who would love to work in a city where people walk the street without fear of gangs or being shot.

  8. I agree with Pasta. Whatever it takes. They take a huge amount of our money, and I can't see the value in what we get in return. And the constant law suits do not make them a partner. The SMPD had the overwhelming support of this town, and through their own stupidity they squandered it.

  9. If I were on the council I would vote to have them replaced. That would be my campaign promise. Let them recall me. See if I would give a rat's arse.

  10. I think if the police tried to get petitions for community support here in Sierra Madre at this time......they wouldn't get 500 signatures.
    First of all, I can't think of one former supporter who tried to help their pay raise cause that would help them today.
    I hope some of the attorneys who read this board will post opinions on this matter. We need our best thinkers on this one.
    One more thing, Sierra Madre.....Thank God we have Sir Eric Maundry. We are informed citizens.
    That's why we will win.

  11. Question. If we contracted out for LA County Sheriff protection, would we not get more comprehensive service? Sheriff's deputies in patrolling SM would be able to directly request action from other County Agencies being familiar with what was available at the County Level. SM Police are limited in what they are qualified and authorized to do and must request County, Pasadena, CHP assistance now. I keep seeing the phrase "suspect remanded to" other Authorities for disposition. It seems like we now have a "middle men police force".

  12. What about contracting the Arcadia Police?
    They would be better. Is it possible?

  13. Eric, Speeding on our streets is a major problem. And Sierra Madre residents seem to be major contributers. I am sure it will take a horrfic accident and loss of life for people to slow down to 30 mph which is for good reason the maximum speed allowed in residential neighborhoods. Inspite of the "ticketing campaign", the speed limits are constantly violated.

  14. 8:56 Anything is possible. You need to show the council that you support them. Also if Arcadia were to be our police, should the day ever come when the city would have to be annexed to either Pasadena or Arcadia, we would have a good argument to go with Arcadia. Right now Sierra Madre would go to Pasadena because we are tied to their crappy school district. (But that is a story for another day)

  15. How about the police citing the Saturday cyclist that blow through stop signs on their way to Kersting Court?

  16. I don't mind the police giving tickets, and they should cite everyone who violates the traffic or safety laws.
    Cyclists included, skate boarders included. Even if they see the city officials or council members violating speeding or parking laws, ticket them. The city needs the money.

    But, if that's all they're good for....we pay them too much and they are really out of line with their damn lawsuits!

  17. money is the mother's milk of litigation. the sierra madre police department is small compared to the rialto pd. the resources with which smpd could pursue litigation against the city based on a fiscally based termiation would likely be limited. in contrast to litigation re one carter, etc., the city would have an offsetting monetary upside (the savings from termination)that would encourage it to pursue litigation related to any termination.

    the election move would, however, be interesting. success on that front would require a tricky balancing act, as the litigation would play into the notion that the department principal reason for existence is to preserve its existence.

    to that end, it is interesting that in today's sierra madre weekly the department and the union are talking nice about how much they love the city and how the numerous lawsuits are no more than a lover's spat. right. i suspect the lawyers who have burned union money in an effort to antagonize the city are waking up to the fact that the momentum is moving away from them. in any event, what a puff piece! bring back susan henderson!

    personally, i can't wait to see the backs of our rude, litigious, marginally compentant, and overpriced department. vaya con Dios smpd!

  18. 9:43 - I saw the article. Going to write about it for tomorrow's post. It looks like the SMPOA has blinked. They've squandered their best resource, community support. And without that they have little sway in this town. Must be quite a rude awakening for them.

    I wouldn't be to quick about the Susan Henderson thing, tho. When a department from our City Hall feels the need to go on a charm offensive, the SM Weekly, Mtn Views "News," and Bill Coburn's society website all seem to be joined at the carriage. I expect to see similar articles out the latter two soon.

  19. Have you been to Rialto?... they need a para-military organization such as the Sheriff's Dept, we don't. I am quite staisfied with our PD, I have never had a bad experience, and I think you will find a majority in this town would agree with me, put it to vote!

  20. The Sierra Madre Police have almost zero support,
    in re-thinking my previous post, I have to change my opinion......if the Sierra Madre Police Dept. had to go around and get petition signatures, they would have to do it themselves.
    They wouldn't get a handful of people willing to help them, in fact, I doubt they would get anyone.
    They are totatally disliked in this town. There dumb ill advised union did it to them and the fools went along with it.
    And I take back my prediction of no more than 500 signatures, they wouldn't get 100.
    As far as a ballot issue......laughable. I'll put my home up as a bet to anyone who thinks the SMPD could win. Ain't gonna happen.
    I'm very disappointed in you, Sierra Madre Police Dept. You have betrayed the people of this city.

  21. Does anybody know our police? I don't think I've ever been introduced to one. Why do they never walk in town? Police in other towns do.

  22. Get rid of these idiots before they KILL somebody!No excuses..They have made us look stupid as well as inept in controlling our affairs.This WILL be an election issue...have No doubt!

  23. Sir Eric..Does Rialto use the same attorney firm as we do?

  24. Why don't they walk in town? ask the chief. it's her crew, she's responsible.

  25. If the SMPD officers are wise, they will tell their Union to go p**s up a rope.
    They are gambling with their careers here.
    I'm not going to pontificate about the unfortunate shooting incident....I do not have all the facts, and neither do any of you, yet.
    I've heard different accounts of that unfortunate incident.

  26. 11:22 No way. They're suing over a Diaz initiated shift change. Can you imagine what could happen if they were asked to walk? There'd be tanks in the streets.

  27. Anon 11:25
    Take it easy friend, all I was trying to say is couldn't find 1 case in the history of the Sheriffs dept. That involved a sheriff shooting an unarmed person while sleeping in a car.
    Now onto not having all the FACTS, I cant imagine a situation where the correct response is: Shoot the sleeping man in the car, but thats is just my opinon, everybody's got one.

  28. 1:37, I agree with you that if that's the way it really came down, it's horrible and Amos needs to go. But we just don't know.

    My best guess is that if somebody is 'sleeping' in a car that is towed, the 'sleep' is not exactly normal -more like unconscious, passed out. And maybe that person came out of 'sleep' crazy like. See the trouble is we just don't know.

    And do you mean the LA Sheriff's record on that? Cuz I suspect there's been a whole lot of this kind of incident that doesn't make it out in the public...

    But you are totally right that we are all entitled to our opinions.
    By the way, I'm a big fan of your youtube postings, so thanks.

  29. It is sad that we are being taken advantage of by people we were all raised to trust. The only word I can think of to describe it is betrayal.

  30. I am disgusted by the police going into cahoots with Lackie, Dammier & McGill, and they have totally lost my support.
    I regret lobbying for them, and I will advocate getting rid of them.
    Hope Rialto can get some small measure of appreciation from cities like us. Rialto was the hard loss that makes the ret of us realize just what kind of nasty tactics were dealing with, how low they will sink.

  31. come on, we could be held hostage by Keystone Cops who can't get hired anywhere else?

    plus, thanks to brainless Amos, the city should have a right to shop out our services but our council are cowards.

    1:51, no charges were filed against the guy sleeping in his car. no charges of attempted assault, having a weapon or anything. that should tell us something about the level of services we receive. the fact is that Amos shot an unarmed person. if Amos pickets, we should run him out of town. I doubt he'd be reinstated by any other police department in SoCal, but only in SM.

    Some 10 year old kids had the SMPD pull loaded guns on them, just for a little snooping in the Skilled Nursing Facility.

  32. You've got to wonder how things have gone in Rialto since the police dictated to the community just what it would decide.
    Wonder how the community support is there now?

  33. Used to admire the policeAugust 27, 2009 at 3:37 PM

    3:18, I think our police need to be booted firmly out of town, but not because of the incidents you describe. I have not heard the facts about what came down at the SNF or the shooting - just speculation and embellishment. Were the kids inside the building? Was it dark? Could the officers have thought they were dealing with dopers or adult robbers? I don't know if you've ever had the experience of dealing with a meth freak or a rageball, but there are times when aggression is necessary. And I agree with John Law that anybody who stays asleep in a car that's being towed is not just sleeping.
    Let's get rid of the SMPD for the rotten way they've behaved to the community in all those rotten lawsuits. That's enough reason.

  34. How about when the "Enid Contract" is up we don't reup with them? Hire the LA Sheriff. If the boys and girls in blue want to work in the city, let them get hired by the Sheriff's Dept. (wink, wink)Like that would happen.

  35. Good one Night! When is that MOU (Moment Of Unsanity) up anyway? You know what they say, don't you? "No MOU, no sue!"

  36. Enid's follies is in its second year. Just like our UUT.

  37. sir eric, in your much anticipated post on the sierra madre weekly article re SMPD's new edie haskall routine (golly citizens of sierra madre, is sure is wonderful to serve you today), could you address something that has been bugging me.

    Who is this City Clerk lady that feels compelled to give public policy pronouncements such as this everytime the Weekly calls her: “Our police officers are number one,” said City Clerk Nancy Shollenberger. “The litigation is strictly administrative, it’s all inside. The police offers love the community, and we love them.”

    eeeegad. is she authorized to speak for the city on policy. If the council can't shut her up pending the fiscal review, can we at least vote to get rid of her?

  38. Enid's follies? Oh. It said in the Observer it was historic. Oh dear, this is very disappointing.

  39. 5:18, you're kidding right? Nancy says nice things about everyone. But there is something very smart in what Nancy said in that article. And yes, I will gladly talk about it.

  40. Enid must have felt all warm and fuzzy after signing taht one.

  41. 5:18, pretty clumsy.
    Maybe you had a few too many before you posted.

  42. Anonymous at 5:18, bite your tongues.
    Thank goodness for Nancy. Imagine if we'd had that Bart Doyle drone Bell in that office!

  43. 5:19, what Observer? You mean Susan's Views on the News?

  44. 5:18
    Karma? Is that you?
    Go have another drink!

  45. Police response calls... over worked I think not.
    8/2 to 8/8 338 calls
    7/26 - 8/1 274 calls
    7/19 - 7/25 279 calls
    7/18 - 7/12 232 calls
    7/5- 7/11 170 calls
    6/28 - 7/4 251 calls
    6/21 - 6/27 214 calls
    The average is between 31 and 48 calls in 24 hours. That is about 1 to 2 calls an hour. Yeah they are really over worked and the dispatcher with the gun is really working hard.

  46. John Law,
    Thank you,
    Here is a web site you will no doubt get a kick out of. Please get back to me if you find a lawsuit against the sheriffs dept in there let me know. It seems they are all city cops or state troopers.
    {just click on "LAWSUITS" above or paste the link here

    Thanks again for the kind words
    Neuroblast Films

  47. Neuroblast, very interesting link.
    Great information.

  48. Its about the activity going on in SM, not the players speaking out. Stay on subject and not the commentators. We have a problem...address it!

  49. I try to look at the full picture in our small townAugust 27, 2009 at 8:16 PM

    ...with all the trashing of the police we have to remember there are some decent officers who are honest, friendly and ethical. One is Mrs. Doyle.

    I do not know her offical title but she has always been professional when myself and other SM citizens have needed an officer and she has come to the call. Or in 2 incidents when I have had to report crimes at the dept. Please remember when you say that the dept has almost zero support,we really do not have statistics and we are attacking some good people and taking away jobs of those who deserve and need their jobs during bad economic times. It is never everyone's fault.

  50. I think what many here have been talking about is the SMPOA rather than the actual police themselves. The tactics pushed by their union are hard-nosed and counterproductive. The City has been under assault from the POA, and Sierra Madre has been paying attention. I'm sure there are good cops on our PD. But they are being poorly served by those who represent them. And they could end up being the babies that go out with the bath water.

  51. I think if you look at the link and its contents you may find a connection
    Neuroblast Films

  52. used to admire - what happened with the Skilled Nursing Facility was that about six or more kids (ages 9 - 12) snuck into the facility in the afternoon. A person called in and said "some kids" were in the building. The cops went in with their guns out and pointed their guns at the kids.

    and 8:16, some of us think that Officer Doyle is one of the worst. She was a dispatcher and somehow got promoted and I wonder if she's qualified to carry a gun. I'd hate to have serious issue come up and see her answer the call.

    Of course, if Amos responded that'd be scary also. I wonder who'll he gun down next.

    All I ever see Doyle do is write tickets, one Saturday she was driving up and down the neighborhood writing tickets to citizens for mundane things.

    BK, the actual police are the SMPOA. The PD approves what the union does and are represented in exact accordance with their own wishes.

    We all know that probably 98% of the SMPD couldn't get hired by the County Sheriff's, LAPD or any other police department.

    There's a reason why most of our cops work here in Sierra Madre, just like there's a reason why some people work at McDonald's, that's all they are qualified for.

  53. Walking on egg shellsAugust 27, 2009 at 9:37 PM

    ..."JUST KIDS" in the nursing facility....remember
    columbine and other schools around the country. kids carry guns, and shoot people with them.....don't know if i would judge any cop too harshly on that one....scarry....

  54. come on walking on egg shells - we are talking about Sierra Madre and the cops were told that it was some young kids. I know what 9:13 is talking about.

    I knew one of the boys and he said the cops once they saw it was kids (very young) the SMPD cops had them lay on the ground and kept their guns pointed at them.

    We all know how unqualifed our cops are and what if we'd had another Amos on our hands and the cops at the nursing facility incident had screwed up and had the safety off and shot one of our kids?

    Our cops have nothing to do and when they get a call they get all Rambo, however they aren't qualifed to handle serious police situations like the standoff. The county Sheriff's and other PD's came in and our cops got relegated to fringe security detail.

    All I know if a SMPD officer pulls out his or her gun, HIT THE DECK...unless you are sleeping or passed out and then you deserved to be shot according to Chief Diaz

  55. Wow,
    Anon 9:13 & 9:56
    I do not think blanket statements about the whole SMPD is accurate. I have become as informed about their inadequacies as anyone here in Sierra Madre, and I agree with some that we should use the Sheriffs dept. In fact I will go so far as to say or SMPD is a liability for our city. I say that because of the many lawsuits, generated by their inability to comunicate within their own department, and the unfortunate incidents between the SMPD and citizens. I am sure not every offcer is as described in your short retort. In fact I think part or all of the problem may be just too many officers. We have not added many citizens to our town since the time of 3 officers. Why can't we return to what works for us. Two equestrian and one segway. Sell all the vehicles, and have the city manager handle the schedual.
    again just my opinion
    Neuroblast Films

  56. I won't even drive into Sierra Madre anymore because of the overzealous traffic enforcement. Over the past few years since I stopped coming to SM, I've probably spent $2000-$3000K in Pasadena that I would normally have spent in Sierra Madre.

  57. I encourage SMPD to keep reckless and DUI drivers from damaging property or hurting people in SM. Thank you!