How Do We Stop the SJPD Exodus?

By Patrol Sgt. Damian Bortolotti

As I stood in day shift briefing recently, I could not help but think long and hard about the predicament the City of San Jose has gotten itself into. For so long this city had at its disposal one of the greatest police departments in the country. It was staffed by highly motivated, efficient, well trained, and committed police officers and communications personnel. Now they are leaving in droves causing dangerously low staffing levels, which have negatively impacted emergency response times and contributed to the rise in crime.

<--break->I stood there and watched as yet another 20-year veteran police officer attended her last briefing as she had recently resigned. It is a hard pill to swallow every time an officer I know resigns, but I know that they all do it because it is best decision for them and their families. I cannot not help but think of how it seems that for every officer who leaves, the crime rate in San Jose increases proportionately.

I work as a patrol sergeant in the Almaden area, and I have seen some pretty heinous crimes occur recently. Last month, there was a robbery at the Almaden Expressway/Camden Avenue Safeway where three suspects assaulted a girl scout and took the cookies that she was selling. Just recently a young man was stabbed to death in an Almaden area park, an elderly man was carjacked and left lying in the street and a married couple were tied up and robbed in their very own home. Sadly, burglaries are up over 23%, auto thefts are up over 71%, and home invasion robberies are up nearly 65% citywide compared to 2011 (editor's note: all statistics obtained from the San Jose Police Department).

Yet, as the weeks go by, more San Jose police officers resign or retire early. As of April 3rd, the San Jose Police Department now has 923 ready officers compared to over 1,300 just three years ago. All of these officers were lost to resignations and early retirements.

Why are all of these officers leaving? The answer is very simple: Security and Trust. The security of knowing what their pay will be in the future and trust that those in charge of this city will keep their word. In both instances, San Jose has failed.  Without these very important principles, officers will continue the exodus caused by looming pay cuts that will result from the implementation of Measure B.

Mayor Reed has recently said that public safety and restoring capacity at the police department must be the City’s top priority. I’m glad to hear him say that, but this statement confuses me because while he has been working hard to reopen four libraries way too many San Jose police officers have been resigning and taking early retirements. Public safety must truly be the number one priority if we are to bring our city back from the brink. Other city programs or departments may have to suffer. That is our reality.

Reed constantly says we need to have pension reform in order hire more police officers; pension reform that would be achieved by enacting Measure B. The irony here is that the pension reform that Reed says is the fix, is actually the cause of the exodus. What many citizens in San Jose don’t realize is that Measure B doesn’t change what current employees receive when they retire. The “reform” is that it forces these employees to pay much more for that retirement while they are still working: 16% more for their retirement and up to 8% more for retiree medical.

City employees are already struggling with a 10% pay giveback that occurred in 2011, and San Jose police officers are paying a little over 19% of their salary into their retirement and retiree medical. That percentage will increase to over 21% this June. When you add up all of those percentages, that means San Jose police officers are looking at having their take home pay reduced by 55 percent! If this happens, these police officers will not be able to survive on what they take home. The very real threat of these pay cuts is what is driving current officers away. Not to mention the belief that Measure B is illegal, and that the City violated state law when it put Measure B on the ballot.

What about police dispatchers and call takers? They are also leaving in droves. Currently SJPD communications is down to a full duty staff of only 122. They are authorized to have 162. Things are so bad they are working mandatory overtime to make up for the staffing shortfalls. These dedicated men and women are leaving San Jose for many of the same reasons as the police officers. They are also difficult to recruit and take a long time to train. Also like officers, dispatchers who work at other police agencies will not come here to work. So San Jose can hire only raw recruits. This takes away the ability of the city to take an experienced officer or dispatcher and put them to work very quickly.

So, San Jose has a big problem: fewer and fewer police officers and more and more crime. To fix this situation we need to start by doing something that actually will retain the officers and dispatchers we currently have. If Mayor Reed and members of the city council are serious about doing this, I respectfully have a suggestion that I’m confident would work. I have talked to many officers and communications personnel who are actively applying to other agencies. They have all said that my idea would make a huge difference in their financial security and they would most likely stay. I also believe that this would give the morale of the department a huge boost:

SOLUTION

•    At a minimum, restore police department salaries to what they were before the 10% pay-giveback.

•    Publicly state that you will not institute any of the Measure B provisions that will reduce take home pay until the courts decide if they are actually legal.

This would halt the mass exodus and allow SJPD to start rebuilding. Unless the resignations and early retirements stop, the officers who are hired in the future will not be able to keep pace with those that are running for the door.

Damain Bortolotti is a San Jose Police Sergeant and is also a member of the San Jose Police Officers' Association Board of Directors

Comments

another solution item

How about a policy that stops the denial of nearly all work injury claims? This would go to the job security area. When employees know that they are going to have work injury claims automatically denied and have to go to litigation to receive medical benefits or wait years to have treatment, this sets a policy of don't do ANYTHING that might get you hurt. In the public safety world, you have to know someone has your back. The City of San Jose has not done this for years!

Trim the fat & fund the future

Wasteful spending, such as gala event tickets for council members and their dates, would be far better spent on increased, more reliable support for our police force. Police officers save lives and protect property. Schmoozing politicians represent a sadly legal version of the crime attacking our neighborhoods - taking what should not be taken.

Police officers, like teachers, dedicate their lives to improving our community and they should be treated with respect and financial security. If the current SJ government can't set better financial priorities, then they need to be voted out of office.

PREVENTION of CRIME/A DEEPER LOOK INTO TROUBLED YOUTH/POVERTY

Hello, my name is Sally.

I was born and raised in San Jose, CA and I have DEEP love and respect for my hometown. My deepest condolences to the "exodus" of police officers due to "SECURITY and TRUST." However, I couldn't help but wonder "WHY?" all the crime in the first place? Where does it stem from? Troubled homes. Troubled families, broken, hurt, no hope. What can we as a people, as a community do to protect the peace, to protect the safety, to SERVE one another with integrity and trust and respect? My goal is to love and serve one another the way Jesus Christ did as our Lord and Savior over 2000 years ago when He walked the Earth. I am no perfect human being and I am the first to admit I have a less than stellar past, however for the future of my beloved city San Jose, CALIFORNIA; we need RESTORATION, PREVENTION, MORE ASSISTANCE to the broken homes where children and youth are led astray into a life of crime and poverty; or worse, including drug abuse and death. Thank you for your time.
Sincerely,
Mrs. Sally H. Collins

rechannel wasted funds

After the recent article on how much the CITY spends on sending councilmen (and partners) to fancy charity events, we can see that one expense would help pay salaries of the truly important people in our city--police. In our neighborhood the last couple of weeks we've had a rash of car thefts and burglaries--stuff we've not seen in the past except rarely. This administration needs to take care of the right business and forget about ballgames and charity events.

I am the President of the

I am the President of the Contra Costa Deputy Sheriff's Association. We are very sympathetic to your situation. For more than a decade our members have contributed between 15-22% of their monthly income to their pensions, In addition to paying nearly 15% of the medical premiums. To add insult to injury, we are the lowest paid SO in the bay area. As a result, we have seen countless quality deputies leave to other agencies who have higher salaries and lower pension costs. Our staffing levels have taken major hits as deputies leave or take early retirement. We pump new hires through our academy, get them trained, and watch them leave. It is sad because our department is a great place to work. The fact is, employers need to be competitive in order to attract and retain quality employees. On the other hand there needs to be a balance to prevent costs from ballooning out of control. How that balance is struck is a matter of great debate. We wish you all the best as we have been living your nightmare for years..

Stay safe,
Ken Westermann

What can I do?

I am a resident of San Jose and would like to know what I can do to help. Of course I will pray, but is there something I should sign, or someone I should write to? I just want to make sure I do whatever I can to help. Thanks so much

get the info out to the community

I agree with all of you. What we need to do is get this information out to the public. Link this to your Facebook send It around to all your contacts on your email list & ask them to share w/ others. Share your views w/ the community, tell them what they were not told during the elections.

Exodus

Get rit of the current management as they have failed. In oakland, even the mayor's exclusive neighborhood has to pay private security for protection.
Keep the faith brothers and sisters. Jim Horne Retired OPD

EXODUS

I Feel Bad For The Folks Still (Doing It ). My PD Was The Best In The World And The City Council Has Trashed It. I Loved My Job And Was Proud To Be A Member Of The Best, I Still Am. When I Was Forced To Retire In 2001, It Was Still A Great Place To Work And Still Drawing Youngsters. The Youngsters Are Still Hitting The Bricks Every Day While The City Council Is Attending "Constituent Outreaches" Aka "Hospitality Rooms" At The Citizens Expense And At Dangerously Low Staffing Levels Throughout The Police Complex. Experience Is Leaving To Keep Their Families Safe. I Realize This A Policy For City Government, But Do It At Your Own Expense, I Did. I Came On In 1972 With A Promise Of Good Bennies And A Good Retirement Package Upon Completing My Career. It Should Be The Same For Everyone Else At The PD And The City. I Am A Member Of The POA. I Think The Citizens Of San Jose Should Raise Up To This Crap And Let The City Council Know That They Are Pissed. Warmest Regards.

Damian I couldn't agree with

Damian I couldn't agree with you more, it's sad to see the experienced officers and dispatchers leave the once great department we had. As I reflect back on my brief 28 plus years I spent working for SJPD, I would like to commend the remaining men and women still trying their best to serve to city they swore to protect as they have it much harder now than us retirees that remember the battles for our security in the 70's the staffing shortages of the 80's the industry boom of the silicon valley of the 90's when the city taxed the businesses out of the valley, which now takes away their tax base which affects the citizens we swore to serve, which would have provided a fair rate of compensation for the employees of San Jose. So when these citizens that voted for Measure B, that drank the kool-aid the mayor and some city council members fed them, you have to ask these citizens, "tell me about your worst day at work", let me see, your printer ran out of ink, your students didn't pass their test, the library didn't have the book you wanted, your city bus ran out of gas, so on and so, now tell them about your worst day at work. I know I could come up with some of mine, but I won't reflect on them here. As for me, I commend those that remain, but I will admit I'm done with California, it's time to leave. The damage the mayor has done will be his legacy long after he's gone and it will be at the citizens expense.

The mayors number 1 priority

The mayors number 1 priority is building a ball park at watever the cost to the citizens of this city. He cares very little about public safety. Actions speak louder than words mr mayor.

Your article

Excellent article and it clearly explains the reason behind all of the recent crime/robberies in our area. We pay a lot in tax dollars to live here and we love our neighborhood; in an effort to speak out - what's the next step - how can we plain old (tax paying) citizens in the community get our opinions heard? (Because I feel pretty helpless).

What can you do

A lot of people are asking what they can do. In my opinion it's the citizens that the city council needs to hear. Officers need their 10% back that they have up "temporarily" . And a gaurantee that measure b won't be implemented until the courts make a ruling . Citizens need to demand this just stop the exodus of police personnel. And until the exodus is stopped, the pd cannot be proactive like we have in years past. And please know that proactively is what keeps crime under control, not just responding to calls like we are now .

I left for the reasons stated above

I left in 2010. I wanted to stay til 2015. But I could not afford the cuts to pay. I have been in city government for over 30 years and this is most corrupt city government I have ever seen.

SJ City Corrupt

Come to Lake County, I bet we have got you beat where corrupt is concerned! It's happening all over! Never stop questioning why!

OSSD

We are in the same boat. When I started in 1988 there were well over 120 PRC (Police Recrods Clerks), as we were known back then.

We are now down to 50 or so. We are losing people as fast as we hire them, and for the same reasons you cited in your article.

Please try to remember PDSs (Police Data Specialists) as we are now known, in your articles, along with Dispatchers and Call-takers. We provide a valuable service to the City of San Jose and those services have been cut back enormously due to low staffing and budget cuts.

Thanks

PDS II Natalie Grey

Congrats Natalie I remember

Congrats Natalie I remember working with you. Glad you have hung in there all these years. It is so sad that our entire SJPD (all ranks), Communications, Call Takers, P.D.S.'s, etc. have had to suffer. It was the greatest place to work.

This is so true, mayor and

This is so true, mayor and council why can't you read the writing on the wall?

Because they DON'T CARE for

Because they DON'T CARE for anyone or the city, but for themselves. They pad their pockets. Look at Rose Herrera. She kept her ex-husband's surname to gain the vote of those voters who are ignorant to research the issues and simply vote based on the politician's name or supposed racial/ethnic background!