To address a critical police staffing shortage, San Jose is expected to suspend union protections to reassign dozens of detectives back to patrol.
The City Council on Tuesday will vote on whether to declare a state of emergency, a policy provision that would suspend union protections so department brass could cut overtime in half by moving 47 officers from specialized units to the streets.
Without the declaration, the city would have to negotiate shift changes with the San Jose Police Officers’ Association (POA). But the union supports the plan, which will allow the San Jose Police Department to meet minimum staffing levels for the time being.
Police Chief Eddie Garcia told San Jose Inside on Sunday that the declaration was his idea and he discussed it with POA President Paul Kelly before going to the council.
“It’s not a new emergency—this is strictly to get by the meet-and-confer bargaining that we have to do,” Garcia said. “Paul understands that we have to do something with staffing, without a doubt. Ultimately, he feels the same way I do, that we have to do something for our officers.”
SJPD’s ranks have fallen from more than 1,400 on the cusp of the financial downturn in 2008 to about 900. Voter-approved pension cuts in 2012 worsened the problem by pitting the city against its unions and leading many officers to find work elsewhere.
In the past four years, SJPD has seen 292 resignations and 198 retirements. As of this month, the number of vacant patrol posts fell to 87 below the 500-officer minimum.
The city finally resolved some of that conflict this year by putting a replacement pension reform plan—Measure F, which faces its own legal hurdles—on the Nov. 8 ballot.
But staffing the city’s police force remains a challenge. By the latest count, according to City Manager Norberto Dueñas, only 812 sworn officers are considered street ready.
Last week, CBS Channel 5 reported that at least a dozen officers have been camping out behind police headquarters because mandatory overtime forces them to work up to 17-hour days. Since many officers commute from the Central Valley and beyond, they’ve been opting to stay put during the week.
A few days before that report, Moveable Feast impresario Ryan Sebastian said SJPD’s understaffing forced him to postpone this weekend’s Bacon Festival of America by a month. City officials disputed that account, saying that Sebastian submitted permit applications late.
Still, city officials acknowledge that the department has been just about stretched to its limit. In a memo prepared for Tuesday’s council meeting, Dueñas predicts that extended shifts will jump by 20 percent in the coming half-year unless the city beefs up patrol.
If the council approves the emergency declaration, SJPD would enact the new staffing changes Sept. 11.
His colleague, Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio, has repeatedly suggested hiring outside help from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office or the California Highway Patrol, which he says would curb or eliminate overtime.
In an email to constituents, Mayor Sam Liccardo acknowledged that the emergency declaration is a temporary stopgap, not a solution.
“Isn’t this simply a Band-Aid? Yes, it is,” he wrote. “Until the police department can aggressively hire and rebuild again, we will continue to implement whatever short-term fixes will improve the safety of the community and of our officers.”
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for August 30, 2016:
- Unlicensed marijuana deliveries in San Jose may result in a criminal charge and a $1,000 bail bond. The city submitted the revised penalty as part of a proposed bail schedule for various infractions and misdemeanors. Massage therapists without proper licensing, permitting and certification would get slapped with a misdemeanor charge and $500 bail bond under the proposed schedule, while illegal dumping would coincide with a $500 bail and possible misdemeanor. Click here to view the complete criminal bail schedule, and here for the list for traffic violations.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260