Instead of going back to the bargaining table following Mayor Chuck Reed’s State of the City address last week, some San Jose police officers started looking for a one-way ticket out of town.
In a speech otherwise noted for its conciliatory appeals to the city’s cops and firefighters, Reed used the word “cancer” five times in reference to the injurious effects of rapidly growing pension costs in the public-safety departments. (He did not specifically mention the $300K in sick leave former top cop Rob Davis snagged on his way out the door.) The mayor might as well have been talking about the spiteful relationship between the city and its unionized workers, particularly the Police Officers Association.
Immediately after last week’s address, the POA announced that it’s already mobilizing its workforce—to start looking for new jobs. Recruiter Deborah Libbey, a sergeant with the Vancouver, Wash., police force, is meeting with officers at POA headquarters this week to talk about the lifestyle benefits to be found in and around Vancouver and greater Portland, Ore.
POA Vice President Jim Unland said it’s possible 10 officers could end up making a “lateral move,” which is a quick-escape route available to officers who’ve already been through the academy and require little training when they jump teams. Of course, Reed isn’t likely to lose any sleep over 10 cops skipping town.
Tom Manheim, spokesman for City Manager Debra Figone, announced last week that the city might need to lay off as many as 349 of its 1,200 officers if massive concessions aren’t agreed to. Unland said it takes 10 months and $130,000 for the city of San Jose to train each officer, so it’s possible other cities might start cherry-picking San Jose’s finest as a way to save money. For roughly a dozen officers who came from New York to the SJPD in lateral moves just a few years ago, this would be a cycle.
Regardless, as if this story needed some irony, just when newly installed Police Chief Chris Moore begins to make real progress in restoring public confidence in law enforcement—new policies barring racial profiling and biased-based policing are being widely praised—San Jose could be losing about a quarter of its force.