My View II: Davis Police Central Figures in MOU Debate and City This Week

Davis Police Car
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Davis Police Car

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.

Longevity Pay Chart

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

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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35 thoughts on “My View II: Davis Police Central Figures in MOU Debate and City This Week”

  1. Frankly

    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.

    It is not all negative.  If police officers stay on the job longer it will reduce the long-term pension and OPEB payout (fewer years of payments), and prevent the city from having to hire and pay for the replacement.

    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.

    This really irritates me.  If the police officer is problematic, then why would he/she get to keep working for the PD?   Everyone knows the answer to this question, the police union, and it is one of many reasons that we need to jettison unions for public sector employees.  Isn’t it ironic that most of the same people that cry  so loudly about bad policing are the same to cry so loudly in support of unions thus making it next to impossible to get rid of the problem police employees?

    1. Tia Will

      Frankly

      Isn’t it ironic that most of the same people that cry  so loudly about bad policing are the same to cry so loudly in support of unions thus making it next to impossible to get rid of the problem police employees?”

      I don’t find it ironic at all. I think that it is entirely possible to hold the pros and cons of more than one aspect of a problem in one’s mind at the same time. It is not at all “ironic” to be able to appreciate that most problems are multifactorial and may need nuanced approaches to arrive at solutions which meet varying needs.

  2. hpierce

    David… your concern about longevity pay is interesting, to me at least.

    Officers (as I recall), have a 5-step salary range.  So, if you’re hired at 1st step, at the end of 4 years, assuming good performance, your salary would increase by ~21.5%.  Then, if you aren’t promoted, that’s it, except for salary COLA’s.

    The new agreement provides for, in effect, a ~0.5% longevity increase in salary per year.

    DJUSD teacher salary tables have no provision for initial ‘merit’ increases (contrast), but [except educational “upgrades”] rely on longevity [comparison], and general salary COLA’s [comparison].

    Teachers get ~3% salary increase each year for longevity, for up to 25 years of service.

    Exactly, what concern do you have about longevity pay for police officers that you appear not to have for teachers?

    1. hpierce

      Don…in my opinion, your question is irrelevant to my comment, as I was responding solely to David’s comments re:  longevity pay.  Nothing more, nothing less.

      I gave enough factual information for you and/or others to weigh in whether teachers are paid enough, whether they should be compensated more/less/same as an officer, etc.  I say again, I ONLY asked in regards to David’s comments on longevity pay concerns.  I see no difference between an argument that it would make it more difficult to get rid of a problem police officer, than the current DJUSD system makes it more difficult to get rid of a problem teacher.

      Now that you’ve brought it up, DTA is a true union, DPOA is not.  Therefore his concerns about “union pressure” to prevent an employer from disciplining a problem employee appears to be at least as great re:  DJUSD.  Thanks for letting me see that.

      To answer your direct question (although I believe it is irrelevant to my comment), I don’t know.

  3. Anon

    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.”

    And this was the real issue in regard to the COLAs IMO, rather than “process” in regard to the MOU item being placed on the consent calendar, which in my mind was a nonissue (I know, I know, many of you had a hissy fit about the consent calendar issue – we will have to agree to disagree on that).  Of course how the city is going to pay for the COLA is the other big issue.  Where is that money going to come from, since the sales tax revenue has already been subscribed by editorials from City Council members for road repairs, street lights and the like?  One City Council member has suggested another tax revenue measure as well as economic development.  The City Council is going to have to get quite creative and do a far better job of messaging to citizens, because there are no guarantees that a tax measure would be approved nor that either innovation park will pass a Measure R vote.  Thus far the messaging from the City Council has been murky at best, and that is putting it kindly.

      1. Anon

        So I assume you are of the group of people here on the Vanguard that believe COLAs should not be given to employees who take fiscal hits in hard fiscal times until the city budget is truly balanced?

        1. Don Shor

          Kind of a loaded question and you do, as you note, assume. But I’ll answer. COLA’s, or any increase in the city’s total payroll costs, could be considered in the framework of a long-term sustainable budget that has an actual strategy of implementation behind it. What that means to me is
          — the council sets budget goals that are measurable;
          — the council directs staff to implement those goals;
          — there is no reliance on revenues that don’t exist, so business parks are not part of the answer at this time;
          — the budget assumptions don’t rely on renewal of a temporary tax.
          I want to keep the focus on the overall compensation costs. It is very easy to bog down in the minutiae of whether COLA or step increases or benefit changes were traded. That is traditionally how staff obscure the overall problem, and it is a consistent problem in any organization. “It’s complicated.” Right? So keep your eye on the ball: the total cost of payroll, what the trend has been, what the projections are going forward. When it’s opaque and digresses into the details, you usually end up with business as usual.
          So your focus on COLAs and when I or anyone else might agree to them is misplaced and is an example of the kind of distraction that leads to business as usual. To use your technique, I guess I’ll assume that is what you want.

        2. Matt Williams

          Anon, the data does not support your contention that the employees took fiscal hits in the hard times. Increases in the the City’s costs for the employees’ long-term compensation and short-term health care costs more than exceeded any short-term salary reductions that the employees incurred. Further, the hourly rate of the employees (in most cases) did not “take a fiscal hit,” but rather the employees received more days off without pay.

      2. Anon

        When I refer to “messaging”, what I am really referring to is the state of the budget.  At times, the City Council/city staff talks about a “balanced budget”, or building a new sports park, at the same time asking for new taxes because unmet repair/maintenance needs are not being met, which is contradictory.  The average citizen is totally confused on the true state of budgetary affairs of the city because of the mixed messaging.

    1. hpierce

      I don’t disagree with you Don, but given that both the City and DJUSD had traditional outside revenue (and normal revenues) taken away, both entities have decided to use additional revenue sources to augment.  Dollar-wise, DJUSD to a MUCH greater extent.

      Comments relating to need for better budgeting, and only paying employees what we can afford, appear to be applicable both to the City and DJUSD.  Or, am I missing something?

      1. Anon

        hpierce: “I don’t disagree with you Don, but given that both the City and DJUSD had traditional outside revenue (and normal revenues) taken away…

        Can you be more specific as to what traditional outside revenue and normal revenues you are referring to?

        1. hpierce

          yes.  City no longer can count on Gas Tax revenues for street maintenance, etc. [basically, GONE]. One of the primary reasons that road maintenance funding dried up and had to be met with GF  source.  [Think it is/was called ‘ERAF’] The state re-apportioned (reduced) property tax disbursements to cities and counties, and used that diverted money to relieve the State of education cost responsibilities.

          not as sure on the schools’ side.

    2. Tia Will

      Anon

      which in my mind was a nonissue (I know, I know, many of you had a hissy fit about the consent calendar issue “

      Interesting way of phrasing your opinion. You have issues or non-issues. Those of us who disagree have “hissy fits”. I find this attitude somewhat dismissive and hardly conducive to reasoned discussion whether or not we happen to disagree.

      1. Anon

        Sigh… I know, I know, many of you had a fundamental disagreement about the consent calendar… Does that satisfy you, now that I have expressed my opinion they way YOU SEE FIT? Not trying to be snarky, but I did not see the process issue as nearly important as the fundamental issue of whether the city should have granted the MOUs – to me the real issue.

        1. Matt Williams

          Anon said … “I did not see the process issue as nearly important as the fundamental issue of whether the city should have granted the MOUs – to me the real issue.”

          If we were living in an either/or world Anon, then I would agree with you. However, this is one of those both/and moments. It isn’t necessary to choose between (A) the fiscal responsibility issue of whether the city should have granted the MOUs, and (B) the transparency and openness issue of the consent calendar. Both of those issues are important enough to merit public discussion.

  4. Anon

    Don Shor: “COLA’s, or any increase in the city’s total payroll costs, could be considered in the framework of a long-term sustainable budget that has an actual strategy of implementation behind it. What that means to me is

    — the council sets budget goals that are measurable;— the council directs staff to implement those goals;— there is no reliance on revenues that don’t exist, so business parks are not part of the answer at this time;— the budget assumptions don’t rely on renewal of a temporary tax.I want to keep the focus on the overall compensation costs. It is very easy to bog down in the minutiae of whether COLA or step increases or benefit changes were traded…

    I’m not sure this answers my question.  If the city sets budget goals that are measurable, directs staff to implement these goals, there is no reliance on future taxes yet to be implemented, BUT unmet needs still exist (e.g. RPI is not where we would like it to be), are you still opposed to COLAs?  I am not trying to “trick you” with my questions, but trying to tease out a fundamental point, which in my own mind I am not yet decided upon.

    Perhaps an analogy would be in order.  When one purchases a home, it is usually accomplished by a mortgage.  Even though one may still owe money on a house, it doesn’t usually stop the normal consumer from buying Xmas gifts or an item for pleasure, e.g. modest vacation.  I feel as if what some are saying on the Vanguard is that until the house is fully paid off, nothing else can be purchased.  Does that analogy make sense?

    This is why I am confused about the positions being bandied about on the Vanguard.  Some are saying they are not necessarily opposed to the 1%/3% COLA, just the process.  Others seem to be saying no COLAs until the city is completely and utterly in the black, i.e. the budget is truly balanced.  Which of course begs the question what is meant by “truly balanced”?

    I honestly am not certain where I come down on the COLAs.  I can understand why the COLAs were instituted – the police and other employee groups took concessions in labor negotiations (no COLAs, less in cafeteria cashouts) to cooperate during tough fiscal times.  They have not had any COLAs since 2009, is my understanding.  Some police officers have left for other cities that ARE giving their employees COLAs.  On the other hand, this city is hardly out of the economic woods yet, and in fact is possibly going to ask for another tax to repair roads and other existing infrastructure.  I can see both sides, sympathize with both sides, and have not decided where I come down on the MOU issue yet.

    I am still waiting to hear where the City Council believes the money for the COLAs is going to come from.  I am trying to keep an open mind, to see what they may have in mind.  I know there is some talk of upping the TOT as one possibility, increasing city fees as another.  I do think Mark West (I think that was the commenter) made a good point when he said the City Council should lay out THE PLAN FIRST of where the money will be for the COLA, rather than laying it out after the fact.

    1. Don Shor

      Drawing a blank on what TOT is. Businesses pay city fees, probably more than residents do (that was the point of my fire inspection comment earlier). City fees should bear some relationship to the actual cost of the city service provided, not be considered as revenue sources. I believe there is even a legal basis for that. If they sent me a bill for $400 for an annual fire inspection, rather than $40, that might be illegal.

      I am still waiting to hear where the City Council believes the money for the COLAs is going to come from. I am trying to keep an open mind, to see what they may have in mind. I know there is some talk of upping the TOT as one possibility, increasing city fees as another. I do think Mark West (I think that was the commenter) made a good point when he said the City Council should lay out THE PLAN FIRST of where the money will be for the COLA, rather than laying it out after the fact.

      I agree. The point of my response to you is that the council members seem to have accepted the payroll increase decision without putting it in the broader context of the city’s budget problems. And that is business as usual.

      1. hpierce

        TOT = Transient Occupancy Tax

        You’ll see it as a ‘surcharge’ (goes by many names), on nearly every motel/hotel bill you ever see… anywhere.  Rates vary.

        1. hpierce

          Nope… but any supervisor in Finance should be able to… I strongly suspect it is a line item on the revenue summary in the adopted City budget, and probably was discussed in the financial analysis of the recently approved hotel/conference center project.

          Happy hunting.  It is not an insignificant item, but it is not a “cash cow”, either.  Hope that helps.

          1. Matt Williams

            Thanks for the reply. Before I posed the question I checked the Budget. TOT is not given a line entry of its own … but rather the money generated by the TOT is buried in the overall General Fund Unrestricted Revenues line.

            Robb’s answer below indicates it was $1.25 million in FY 2014. I suspect that is with a TOT rate of approximately 10%. If the TOT is raised to 12% that would mean a $250,000 addition to the Revenues … far short of the Staff Report’s estimation of the annual cost of the MOUs.

      2. hpierce

        Another ‘primer’…

        Fees have to be based on ‘cost of service’ [in CA, at least]… ALL of the costs of service, direct and/or indirect.  So, if a city employee spends 6 minutes doing an inspection, the fee can (and, in my opinion should) cover direct costs of the employee’s time (including all benefits), proportional share of the vehicle used (depreciation of capital cost, operation, maintenance), costs related to record keeping, maintaining the record keeping equipment, preparation/sending of bills, processing the payments for those bills, etc.

        In that light, $40 looks like it more than a bit low.  Less than $4/mo.

        Taxes on the other hand, do NOT require proportionality as to service received.  Sales taxes, property taxes, income taxes, Business Licence taxes, DJUSD and City parcel taxes, TOT, etc.

        Don, if I were you, I’d be going off a lot more on the Business Licence costs to you rather than the $40 fee.

    2. hpierce

      i really like your mortgage analogy.

      It is critically important that when buying the house, you are comfortable as to how long you want to be making payments.  You have to be sure that you can afford to make principal and interest payments, pay utilities, secure food, save some money aside in case of emergency, cover medical costs thru some combination of insurance and reserves, and still be able to go out dining/see a movie. From time to time.

      Perhaps we should look at all the “unfunded liabilities”, be they infrastructure or obligations to employees & retirees (the mortgage), figure out the term of payment, set aside money in each budget to ensure the debt is retired on time, set aside money for an emergency fund (reserves), etc.

      In a logical, calculated fashion, rather than in a “reactionary” way.

      1. Matt Williams

        hpierce, what you have described is very much like what the Finance and Budget Commission (FBC) has been advocating for, and working toward, in its recent half dozen meetings.

        To their credit Staff brought to both the Utility Rate Advisory Committee (URAC) and the FBC a recent item entitled 2015 Sewer Rates Study – Revenue Requirements and Reserve Policy in which they asked both those advisory bodies to “provide input regarding adjusting Sewer Fund revenue requirement and reserve fund policy.” The discussions about infrastructure maintenance, useful life, and replacement costs that took place during that item were exactly what you have called for. Some might have called it a Neil Armstrong moment. The Staff team Stan Gryczko, Bob Clarke, Greg Clumpner (consultant) and Michael Lindquist left the FBC meeting with really solid input for accomplishing a proactive approach to funding the ongoing costs of treating Davis’ Waste Water.

    3. Matt Williams

      Anon said … “I am still waiting to hear where the City Council believes the money for the COLAs is going to come from. I am trying to keep an open mind, to see what they may have in mind. I know there is some talk of upping the TOT as one possibility, increasing city fees as another. I do think Mark West (I think that was the commenter) made a good point when he said the City Council should lay out THE PLAN FIRST of where the money will be for the COLA, rather than laying it out after the fact.”

      That really is the bottom-line. It is easy to reconstruct the “what are we going to have to pay” timeline of the MOU agreement process. On November 17th the Mayor stated that “There is nothing to report out of Closed Session.” That means the agreement had not been finalized at that point in time. Between November 17th and November 25th (the date the December 1st agenda and staff reports were posted) the employee groups and the City Manager came to agreement on any outstanding items that still existed as of the November 17th Closed Session. It is not easy to construct the timeline for how the Council wrestled with “how are we going to pay for these new obligations” question.

      With that said, as I pointed out in another thread, the Council (and the City Manager) wouldn’t be dealing with all this uncertainty amongst the citizens/residents if they make it standard policy that major expenditures (like these MOUs) always appear as a Regular Agenda item where the citizens/residents can make public comment (Note: I erroneously used the term “public hearing” in my prior post). Yesterday hpierce posted the informative comment below, which gives us a sense of what the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has been in the past. My personal belief is that SOP helps contribute to the broad sense of distrust of government that exists in Davis and across the Nation. Changing that SOP to one that is more transparent and inclusive would be a step toward building greater trust in our government.

      Over the last 30 years, I believe the MOU’s were on the consent calendar (not sure on the ‘imposition’ ones) 100% of the time, but several were pulled at the mtng. Always by a CC dissenter(s). SOP (suspect more people know what MOU means than SOP).

      Look at it this way, Davis is a “municipal corporation”, by state law. The CC is the Board of Directors, chosen by the investors/stakeholders (voters). The CM is the CEO/CFO. Do corporations hold meetings with stakeholders with a discussion item on employee compensation?

      1. hpierce

        “public comment” being invited, YES.  

        “public hearing”, with all that is generally associated with that, including required publication of “notice in newspapers of general circulation” [will the Emptyprize still qualify?] for 10 days to weeks, postings (often in excess of City webpage/bulletin board outside City Offices), etc., NO.

        1. Matt Williams

          I agree hpierce. Public hearing is a bridge too far … appearing on a Regular Agenda where the public can comment on the Staff Report and the Council members’ questions is the more appropriate venue.

        2. hpierce

          And, there is still time for public comment on this issue… next CC meeting, it could be a regular agenda item, it can be addressed via the ‘public comment’ segment, or addressed in written communications. Any of which could lead a member who approved the item to propose a re-consideration at a subsequent meeting.

          For those who are seriously concerned about the MOU terms, and/or the ‘process’, should avail yourselves of one or more of those ‘remedies’.  If you don’t, stop whining.

          I think it would be a potentially good strategic move for the CM/Mayor to set aside time on the next meeting agenda for the public to comment.  But, if not, there are two other mechanisms to have your voice heard outside this blog. For the ‘public record’.

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