By Nick Kipley
On the afternoon of Monday the 30th, approximately 150 members of the Pasadena Police department picketed City Hall with signs reading, “City Council, Save Our Police Department,” “Keep Pasadena Safe: Support Our Police Department,” “We Support Chief Sanchez,” “Keep Officers Here,” and, “Attract the Best.”
The reason for the picketing was a result of the fact that Pasadena has lost 16 of its police officers to other Southern California departments in the recent years. The Cities of Glendale, Anaheim, Santa Monica, and Beverly Hills are of comparable size to Pasadena, and their police departments all pay much higher than Pasadena’s does. In fact, according to the Pasadena Police Officer’s Association, their department’s structure isn’t competitive at all with departments of comparable size.
After picketing the building, the officers filed inside to crowd the City Council chamber for Monday night’s meeting. Over a hundred officers stood, shoulder to shoulder, lining the wall along the perimeter of the chamber.
During Public Comment, Veronica Burris of the Pasadena Police Department spoke on behalf of the men and women of the city who have devoted their lives to protect and serve the community.
Burris stood before council as a “proud former citizen of Pasadena,” who, “for the past fourteen years has served with the Pasadena police department.”
Burris explained that she grew up in Pasadena, attended Pasadena’s public schools, and got involved in the Pasadena police explorer program when she was in high school. Even though she no longer lives in the City she said, “Pasadena will always be my home.
“I know firsthand the importance of having great officers working in our city,” she continued. “Although I no longer live here I pride myself in my ability to give back to the community that made me who I am today.”
Speaking on behalf of the police officers, the sergeants, and the non-represented lieutenants, Burris told those sitting on the dais that “over the past eight years the men and women of this department have worked diligently with the City Manager [Michael Beck] to be fiscally responsible during the great recession that affected this community, its police officers, and the city.
“City Management now realizes that the numerous concessions placed upon our members have placed us in a precarious situation. As a result, we’re at a point where we cannot keep seasoned, well-trained police officers, nor can we fill the void of departing officers with qualified applicants.
“As many as 25 police officers have applied to other agencies. One of our officers left two weeks ago and two others will leave within a month. In terms of salary and benefits, we have not only failed to keep pace with other agencies, but have sunk to almost the last position in the serving of our relevant labor market.”
“The Police Officers Association,” Burris continued, “Is in the second year of an unsigned contract because City Management has failed to meet with our association to hash out the differences until just recently. Morale amongst the officers has also further eroded by the fact that City Management has been unable to resolve what is perceived as a relatively simple payroll glitch that prevents our officers from being accurately paid for the time they have worked.”
Due to this discrepancy, the Pasadena Police Department is understaffed, which means that the officers who have stayed with the city are overworked in addition to being underpaid.
“While the Officers are highly motivated and dedicated to this community,” said Burris, “it is hard to ignore the fact that we have sunk so low compared to surrounding communities.”
After the meeting, Sgt. Bobby Crees—who normally serves as Sgt. At Arms during Pasadena City Council meetings and during this crisis has been acted as a spokesman for the Pasadena Police Officer’s Association—claimed that the members of the Pasadena Police Department aren’t looking for any sort of substantial raise, they’re just trying to make the City of Pasadena competitive with surrounding communities.
Standing on the steps of City Hall Sgt. Crees expressed sentiments that City Manager Michael Beck is in support their efforts and hopes, along with the rest of the Pasadena PD, to get this situation resolved before the amount of officers leaving begins to severely affect the quality of the work that the Pasadena Police Department are already stretched to complete.
And this should be a problem. If City Staff were following the City’s Mission Statement (the one posted on the front page of every City Council Agenda) they should know that raising the pay of the Pasadena Police Officers to a competitive level is commensurate with The City of Pasadena being, “dedicated to delivering exemplary municipal services responsive to our entire community and consistent with our history, culture and unique character.”