Since 2006 the rank and file of the Davis Police Department have really attempted to stay out of the limelight in Davis. While we have focused heavily over the years on the local firefighters’ union, for the most part, the Davis Police Officers’ Association has kept a low profile, they have done their job and not tried to make waves.
In 2005, after the firefighters had taken a ridiculous 36 percent pay increase, the police took a much more modest 18 percent increase. That’s a good size increase to be sure, but as one former union president explained, they knew full well that the firefighters’ contract from 2005 to 2009 was going to come back and bite them.
In 2013, when the city was looking at fire reforms and the Davis firefighters were protesting and holding no-confidence votes in the former city manager, it was the DPOA rank and file who showed up and really put a stop to a lot of the nonsense that was going on at the time.
When the Davis Human Relations Commission worked with the leadership at the Davis Police Department to create a restorative justice style mediation process as an alternative to formal complaints, the DPOA overwhelming blessed the agreed-upon protocols now known as ACR (Alternative Conflict Resolution). They were not compelled to do that and they are taking a leap of faith that the process will work.
Based on all of this, this week when the Vanguard received a fundraising letter purportedly from the DPOA President – it turned out be a past-president – it seemed really out of character for the DPOA. Turns out, it was out of character.
But DPOA President Sean Bellamy very quickly put out a statement disavowing the letter. He said, “Regrettably, this mailer was sent out without the DPOA’s knowledge or approval. The content of the letter was not authorized by the DPOA and does not represent the viewpoint of the DPOA or a majority of its members. “
To me, the biggest point made here is that the rhetoric in the letter “does not represent the viewpoint of the DPOA or a majority of its members.” This was critical language – they did not simply suggest that the mailer was unauthorized, but they disapproved of the views expressed.
All of that said, there are some concerns going forward at this point. On Tuesday, the Davis City Council honored retiring Chief Landy Black. Darren Pytel, the new chief was there, as were three of the four lieutenants in the Department. But there were no sergeants (who are part of the union) and no rank and file officers in attendance.
It was explained that Chief Black had not really told the department of this ceremony and that the POA was throwing him a lunch party in his honor – on his request. Still, it seems a bit odd that there would be no rank and file at this public ceremony and that the incoming chief and his lieutenants, who were there, wouldn’t alert the officers about this event.
It is a small matter for sure, but something to watch. Chief Black has had a good legacy in the city of Davis and he really helped to restore both the professionalism in his department as well as public confidence in the local police. However, every transition to a new chief marks some risks and, while Darren Pytel knows the department and community well, it will be a different role him.
Finally, the biggest issue of the week involves the MOUs (Memorandums of Understanding), and the DPOA MOU is central to these considerations. The Vanguard has done numerous reports and studies on the discrepancy between the compensation for the police officers and fire.
Davis fire is near the top in compensation while Davis police are near the bottom in compensation, in comparisons to other cities.
Back in 2013, the Vanguard ran an article showing new data confirming that a comparison of Davis to ten other regional communities plus UC Davis found that the city of Davis firefighters received, both in salary and total compensation, more than all but two other communities (Fairfield and Vacaville), while their police counterparts received less than both average and median income and total compensation. Only Sacramento and West Sacramento police received less among the cities surveyed.
These data continue a trend that the Vanguard has reported on since the seminal May 2009 article that asked, “Why Do Firefighters Make Substantially More Than Police Officers in Davis?“
There is legitimate concern that the city is uncompetitive for quality new hires, and recruitment of good officers has been an ongoing struggle. Davis has worked to revamp its recruitment process. In May, Darren Pytel talked to the Vanguard about those struggles and how they are looking to change their approach.
At least one councilmember told the Vanguard that the COLA (Cost-of-Living Adjustment) and the MOU provided a way of attempting to reward the DPOA (and the other three bargaining units like PASEA – Program, Administrative and Support Employees Association) for playing ball with the city during its contract battles in the past, as well as being mindful of the need to recruit quality officers in the future.
The Vanguard has been an advocate for new patrol officers, both last spring as well as in the wake of the KetMoRee murder and subsequent discussions on the late night downtown.
But the Vanguard remains concerned about the impact not only of the COLAs, but also of the longevity pay.
Under the bargaining agreement, for every five years of service, an officer would receive a 2.5 percent increase in pay above base salary. That means that an employee can receive a 12.5 percent increase above their base salary by the end of 25 years of service.
One concern about this set up is that it may disincentivize long-time employees from retiring because, of course, not only would they forgo the increased salary, they would forgo having that increased salary count as their base pay for their pensions.
Not only is that a financial hit to the city, but it might make it more difficult to deal with problematic police officers by getting them to take early retirement rather than attempt to deal with them through disciplinary and other channels.
It would be helpful if we could look at data here to determine how big a problem early transfers are. It is worth noting that the five people at the top right now of the department are long-time city of Davis Police Officers – they are a solid group of people who know the city and department well.
However, in the years following 2006 and the departure of former chief Jim Hyde and the arrival in 2007 of Chief Landy Black, a number of people left the department, and many of those were, in fact, problematic officers.
So the question we should ask is whether good police officers left the department prematurely to go to other departments. The other question is whether a longevity pay is an inducement for a young officer right out of the academy – having discussed the issue of retirement with Darren Pytel last spring, it seems like, for most young officers, a good retirement package is not the incentive for them to come to the department.
In other words, it is seems at least questionable that longevity pay solves either the problem of recruitment or retention for the Davis Police. It does represent a more sizable fiscal hit on the city than the MOU might imply. And finally, it seems only a matter of time before the firefighters’ union musters the support to get their own form of longevity pay.
The Vanguard shared the concern about recruiting good officers and the need for more patrol officers, however, the city’s fiscal condition casts a shadow over the decision to create longevity pay – a decision that we may come to rue in the coming years.
—David M. Greenwald reporting