In a Jan. 19 e-mail to the Menlo Park City Council log, Menlo Park Mayor Heyward Robinson defended the council's decision to award sergeants in the police department a 30 percent pay raise over the next two and a half years. His e-mail is reproduced below.
Public safety is one of the highest priorities for Menlo Park residents. We hear this repeatedly, particularly when we experience an upswing in crime. Unfortunately, due to staff vacancies, our police force has not been able to deliver the level of service our community deserves and expects. It is frustrating to sit in a community meeting discussing crime while our police chief explains that we do not have the officers to staff additional neighborhood patrols. Residents at those meetings have rightly demanded that council immediately address this issue.
Vacancies in the department were primarily caused by the loss of officers to other jurisdictions due to a salary imbalance. After our previous labor contract was signed (in 2005) thirty officers left or retired from the department. The pool of qualified officers in the Bay Area is small, and the demand is high. Menlo Park has simply not been providing a wage package sufficient to retain and recruit officers to our city.
Our council made a commitment to the residents of Menlo Park to fix the problems with the police department. We made a big step toward reaching this goal with the POA (line officers) contract, signed in April of last year. Adoption of this contract has had a dramatic effect on retention and recruitment of officers. Several officers who were contemplating retirement or transfer have stayed. The department is now almost fully staffed. We fully operational narcotics, gang, and traffic units. Morale is high. We are catching criminals, breaking up crack houses, and intervening with kids who are vulnerable to joining gangs. Menlo Park is safer because of this contract.
The PMA (Sergeants) contract is the second piece of the puzzle, and completes the process of making Menlo Park PD once again competitive with those of surrounding cities.
Additional information on the contract and the process by which it was negotiated can be found in the attached FAQ (see note below) that was prepared by city staff. I have also attached a press release on a recent arrest made by our narcotics enforcement team. It is unlikely that this arrest would have been made a year ago, before our department staffing problems were addressed. Please contact me or other members of council if you have further questions.
(NOTE: The documents Mr. Robinson refers to are not included here.)