The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Letters to the Editor

 

November 1, 2016



Police should focus

on ‘real’ work

Editor:

I want the city manager job-great salary, no experience and hasn’t lived in Sweet Home.

I do, and know some of the problems.

Re: police/dog calls, we need to hire a dog catcher who would have authority to cite negligent owners and be fully educated in the animal abuse laws. The public needs to call him for barking, loose dogs, etc. All abuse calls must go to the police and callers should make a complaint.

Code enforcement is the current entity to call, not the police! Save them for real police work.

Finally, you should publish a list of offenses that code enforcement handles so the public knows when to call them instead of the police.

Chase Bratton-Ralph

Sweet Home

City must focus

on police needs

Editor:

Our local police and their union are in the process off attempting to negotiate a new contract with the City of Sweet Home. Their contract expired in June, and seeing and hearing no report on a new contract, I am led to believe that little progress toward a new contract has been made.

Sweet Home police officers are amongst the lowest-paid police force for cities of our size. There is little incentive for officers to remain with our local agency because they can make so much more if they laterally transfer to another agency, like Lebanon, Corvallis, Eugene, Sheriff’s departments, or a multitude of other Northwest police agencies.

Other working conditions are not ideal. Yet, we have, from what I have seen, a very good group of officers.

I suspect the city is claiming “poverty” and is unwilling to give our officers a raise. Sweet Home may not be rich, but it certainly is not broke. The Sweet Home Police Department consists of 12 officers, five dispatchers and one community resource officer. During the recently expired three-year contract period, we had six seasoned officers leave for “greener pastures.”

Six out of 12 – that’s half of all our officers leaving us during the past three years! Whenever an officer leaves, we have to train a new one at the cost of approximately $70,000-$80,000 per recruit. We are not likely to lure a seasoned officer from another agency due to our rock-bottom wages and benefits.

During the past three years, Sweet Home has had to train seven new officers (one washed out). So, at a minimum, we have spent $490,000 to replace half of our police force during that three-year period.

Had we, instead, put that money toward increased wages and benefits, we reasonably could have retained most of those seasoned officers because they would likely not have found it necessary or desirable to transfer to another agency in order to be adequately compensated... And we would have saved a lot of money in the process!

A 10- to 12-percent wage increase over a three-year contract period represents two-thirds of the money that has essentially been wasted by the city on training for replacement officers. I firmly believe that our turnover ratio (which is currently at 50 percent amongst officers) would be vastly reduced if we paid our officers commensurate with other similarly sized agencies.

It has been jokingly applied that the Sweet Home Police Department is a de facto training facility for other agencies. So, in fact our spending all the money we do on replacement officers equates to “we, the people of Sweet Home” subsidizing “other police agencies.”

I am aware that there is a law that requires another agency to reimburse the training agency if the trainee transfers out within three years (on a pro-rated basis), but that argument does not hold in Sweet Home, because those who have transferred out did so after three years. Accordingly, Sweet Home loses all that training expenditure and has to then spend money for training all over again.

Ideally, we should be aiming to have our Police Department become a “hire-to-retire” agency; ideal because it is good for the community to know their officers and for the officers to know their community.

Such familiarity is conducive to a cooperative environment. That environment would then become part of the fabric that binds Sweet Home together. However, we will never reach that goal if there is no incentive for an officer to remain in Sweet Home for more than four or five years.

If the City of Sweet Home can spend good money on what was viewed by many as being a boondoggle (the removal of City Manager Craig Martin) in paying him to “go away,” I hope they can see the value of offering pay and benefits that will entice our good police officers to “stay” their entire career in the Sweet Home Police Department.

We are not broke. It is a question of how we spend our money and where. It is clear that without incentives, our officers will continue to leave after a few years. The question becomes: do we care enough to adequately compensate respected officers who assist us, often during the most difficult and traumatic moments of our lives, or instead continue to waste money on the revolving door of training replacement officers? It is clear that we are going to spend the money one way or the other. I think it better to invest that money in the retention of our seasoned professional police officers.

Our City Council is on record acknowledging that in order to attract a good-quality city manager, they are going to have to pay more for that quality. I hope they can see the importance of applying that same logic to retaining the experienced and dedicated officers of our police force.

I urge citizens of Sweet Home to contact city management (mayor, city council and whoever represents the city in these negotiations) and insist that our police officers be offered an adequate and fair contract that will increase the possibility of retaining our police officers, dispatchers and community resource officer.

Gary Jarvis

Sweet Home

 
 
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