|Public service or self service?|
|Written by Elena Miramar|
|Saturday, 10 July 2010 00:00|
$190,589 for one police officer in Oakland! The amount sounds unbelievable, especially because it is the average cost of salary and benefits – the cost is higher for about half of all officers. It’s $177,888 for one firefighter. Police and fire are critical services but these costs are too high for a city like Oakland that is struggling with a $31 million budget deficit. Too high in a recession or at anytime. It’s shocking that 75 percent of the city’s $400 milliongeneral fund is spent on police and fire service.
Oakland police are also in a rare category for any type of worker in the U.S. – they do not pay any of their salary into their own retirement pension, which is at a generous rate of about 90 percent of their last year’s salary. Paying the police pensions costs the city $8 million to $9 million a year, said City Councilwoman Jean Quan.
As outlined in our lead article this issue, the city of Oakland will lay off eighty police officers on July 12 and an additional 122 will likely be laid off in January. 202 fewer police to serve and protect people who live and work in Oakland. This is unfair but avoidable if the police and their union would agree to any concessions.
Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente is in favor of police voluntarily contributing 9 percent of their salaries to their pensions.
“If sworn personnel do not contribute to their pensions,” he wrote in a recent letter, “we’ll be forced to cut officers.”
De La Fuente also wrote, “I have for months been urging the Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA) to come to the negotiating table and agree to contribute to a portion of their pensions”, yet the OPOA, “…has been unwilling to agree to this concession…”
What does this say about the police department’s commitment to public safety? It seems the police are more committed to protecting their generous salaries and benefits than they are to protecting the people who pay their generous salaries and benefits. They won’t even protect the jobs of other officers – by giving no concessions, the police and their union are allowing (mostly) junior officers to be laid off. Can it be called anything else but greedy?
When are more community leaders going to raise their voice about the real solution? The solution is to cut police salaries and require officers to contribute to their own pensions. The solution is not to reduce the number of police on Oakland streets. When are the residents of Oakland and other cities going to wake up to what is happening and demand an end to the unfair and unsustainable costs of workers in core services?
|Last Updated ( Friday, 06 August 2010 09:22 )|