Mod: I originally posted this back in 2009. I believe it still quite accurately depicts what the capitulation of then Mayor Enid Joffe to the Sierra Madre Police Officers Association (SMPOA) cost this city. I also believe it called what all of this would eventually lead to in Sierra Madre, which is why I am reposting it eight long years later. What we are now seeing today was a long time in coming, and not unpredictable. Check it out and see if you don't agree.
How The Police Officers' Association (POA) Got Business Done - In what was probably one of the most extreme cases of "Little Miss Sunshine" syndrome I have read in a while, the Mountain Views "Observer," on 12/21/07, ran the following effervescent 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 voter removed) Mayor Enid Joffe crying at the altar. Oh, and the taxpayers of Sierra Madre holding the very large bills both parties left behind.
The MVO article continued with this little frothy bit of heavily medicated 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 SMPOA 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 who took this to actually be a fairly serious defeat for the City of Sierra Madre, with the cooked up joy offensive by the paper merely an attempt to put a pretty face on disaster. 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? It turns out that its leadership isn't quite as local as you might have first assumed. Here's a passage from a March 21, 2009 article in the Union Tribune detailing 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 bonus points because those are the two gentlemen that won their clients a stunning and profitable victory at the expense of the taxpayers 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 has happened here in Sierra Madre.
In a March 23, 2009 piece called "Caring For Union Cops, Not Their Bully Tactics," veteran syndicated columnist Logan Jenkins highlighted a few of them for us (link):
* 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 Mountain Views "Observer" 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 Sierra Madre Police Officers Association to the kinds of hardball tactics described on the Lackie, Dammeier & McGill website. The ones that drove City Hall to cry uncle, surrender, and then get their MOU on.
Which, judging how the UUT vote turned out, worked quite well for our Police Department. And yes, when it came to larding out the bull, nobody could ever do it quite like Enid Joffe.
One thing that always needs to be remembered. Without community support most of the POA's tactics will not get it done. They are dependent upon the natural goodwill many citizens feel towards police officers in general, which is what makes these bullying methods work.
People elected to City Councils are keenly aware that if they oppose the demands of a police union, they run the risk of alienating the more naive voting public. People who, properly marketed to by labor organizations such as the POA, will always give a sympathetic ear to their demands. This in spite of the fact that the results will likely come straight out of their own pockets.
What the SMPOA needs to understand is that if they go down this path once again, it could adversely affect the vote on any UUT extension request. Something that is going to have to go back on the ballot eventually.
And should any future UUT extensions ever get turned down by the taxpayers? Then the Sierra Madre Police Department will become a luxury that this city will no longer be able to afford.
Peace in our times, indeed.
Mod: A couple of things to add. The police law firm Lackie, Dammeier & McGill later dissolved in scandal. Their tactics leading to indictments for some of their top lawyers, and for very serious crimes. Their organization and website are long gone. Today police officers quitting on Sierra Madre and leaving for greener pastures are not helping the cop union cause, or at least whatever truncated portions are left of it. Badly needed change could finally be coming down and yes, it really has been a long time coming.