Pacific Grove police union sees department’s downfall

Pacific Grove residents have been encouraged to turn out in droves to Wednesday’s City Council meeting in a dire letter from the Police Officers Association predicting the department’s downfall in light of perceived hiring and retention failures.

Should staffing levels remain stagnant by the end of the year, “your local police department will cease to exist shortly thereafter,” the letter says.

Much of the page-long document centers on items that would fall under contract negotiations between the City and the union. The POA addresses the employees’ retirement contribution — which, it says, is the highest in the state — and a “total compensation” package for health care.

On non-contract levels, the POA looked at staffing, which is so low “that shifts sometimes have only one sergeant and one officer patrolling the entire city.” In 2010, the U.S. Census counted just north of 15,000 people living in Pacific Grove.

Minimum staffing requires one sergeant and two officers, according to the POA. The result is officers must dash from call to call, and work 12 to 16 hours per shift for days on end, the POA said.

Lack of animal control and parking enforcement officers and detectives has caused the city to either drop those services or officers to double up duties, the POA said.

“This makes it extremely difficult to solve crimes and prosecute criminals,” the letter says.

High CalPERS (California Public Employees Retirement System) contributions and perceived poor benefits have made it impossible for Pacific Grove to recruit qualified police officers, according to the letter.

“If our department cannot retain its current officers or recruit viable candidates, it will be unable to function and the city will have to contract with another department,” the POA said.

Currently, Pacific Grove isn’t contracting with another agency, but it does share a chief. Vicki Myers heads up both Pacific Grove and Seaside police departments.

Myers has come under fire in the last two years. She was the subject of no-confidence votes by officers unions in both cities in the past year. In August, the POA claimed Myers was physically abusive to some of her employees.

Myers denied all allegations but wouldn’t go further into it, citing the potential for litigation.

Tuesday’s letter to residents, however, didn’t touch on Myers at all.

The Pacific Grove POA doesn’t want to be the highest paid police department on the Peninsula, but its members do want to be able to be competitive in recruiting, the letter says.

“At this time, we have no candidates in the hiring process, which is a strong indicator something is seriously wrong,” according to the letter.

Residents were encouraged to turn out for the Pacific Grove City Council meeting Wednesday night.

Myers and City Manager Thomas Frutchey didn’t immediately return calls for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Follow Allison Gatlin on Twitter @allison_salnews #salinas.

http://www.thecalifornian.com/story/news/local/2014/11/19/pacific-grove-police-union-sees-departments-downfall/19290275/