April 4, 2013
Dear Atherton Resident,
I am writing to you as the President of the Atherton Police Officers Association (APOA) to call your attention to some important decisions before your Town Council. These decisions may change the way the Town provides your safety and security services. Ultimately, the Council's choices may lead to the outsourcing of the Atherton Police Department to another local agency.
The Police Department is experiencing a staffing crisis. Only 3 of the allotted 5 Sergeant positions are filled. The Town has repeatedly failed to attract qualified candidates to fill open Police Officer positions. Several of our Officers are unable to adequately perform patrol duties due to illness or injury.
Many shifts are being run without a Sergeant and often there are only 2 Officers in the field. This does not allow us to safely provide the services you desire.
This situation will deteriorate if the Town is unable to attract and retain candidates with the proper background, skills, and abilities. The Town must be willing to compensate fairly if it hopes to maintain its Police force.
* Parcel Tax
The Town has no retail businesses providing sales tax income. It relies on property taxes for the majority of its income. Following the implementation of Proposition 13, the Town supplemented this revenue with a Parcel Tax, which expires every 4 years and requires a 2/3 majority for passage.
The Council must soon make a decision about the Parcel Tax. The current Parcel Tax measure expires in July 2014. If it is not renewed, the Town will simply not be able to afford its Police Department.
The Parcel Tax has been $750 per typical parcel and the rate has not been increased in decades. In September 1999, the Atherton Police Department had 31 members. Today the Atherton Police Department has 21 authorized positions, some of which are not filled. Shrinking the organization, not increasing revenue, has accommodated the growth in expenses
Without an increase in the Parcel Tax the Town has seen a shrinking dollar to provide the services the Parcel Tax is supposed to accommodate. Could this be why we have a shrinking Police Department?
* Sworn Police Officer and Dispatcher Contract Negotiations
The APOA has a contract with the Town, called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The current MOU will expire September 30, 2013. The Town Council has tipped its hand on several occasions in public forums that they will mandate a series of reductions in salaries, pension, and medical benefits.
If the reductions imposed upon the Police Chief and Lieutenant earlier this year is any indication, these cuts will be severe. In fact, if the cuts are similar in scope, many Officers, Sergeants and Dispatchers will find they are unable to
￼provide for their families. As much as they enjoy working in this town, they may have no choice but to seek other employment opportunities.
In the face of budget cutbacks, other neighboring communities went for years without hiring new Officers. They are now hiring again. They are competing for officers that would consider leaving their agencies saving them a considerable training investment. If Atherton does not compensate at market levels, they will not only be unable to attract officers, they will lose their Officers, Sergeants and Dispatchers to these other agencies.
This has happened before. From 1998 through 2004, there were a series of police layoffs and resignations. They came in the midst of two failed Parcel Tax measures, staff reorganizations and layoffs. The Town reduced compensation to a level where Atherton became non-competitive. Many officers and dispatchers went to work for neighboring jurisdictions. It took several years to rebuild the Police Department.
The San Jose Police Department provides insight into what could await Atherton. SJPD has lost fully a third of their trained and experienced officers. They left SJPD because of severe reductions in compensation and benefits. San Jose Police Department cannot train and replace officers quickly enough, resuhing in a department which is seriously understaffed. Crime has skyrocketed to unprecedented levels.
The Council will need to decide if it will continue to compensate at existing competitive levels or reduce salary and benefits.
* How You Can Help
The Atherton Police Department has been in existence since the founding of the town in 1923. The APOA wants the APD to be one of the best Police Departments on the Peninsula. We are proud to work here and want to continue the tradition of high-quality service. We believe Athertonians share our vision.
These upcoming decisions are now before the Council. It is very important you express your views to the Council. For your convenience, we have enclosed an addressed response card. Please use this card to send your opinion to Mayor Lewis and the rest of your Town Council. Please let them know you support us. Thank you.