Police Command Officers: trust destroyed!
According to a claim made by the Sterling Heights Command Officers Association in a letter to City Council, the tactics City Administration have employed during this year’s contract renegotiation have resulted in the trust between the Police Department and the City Administration being destroyed. For this reason, the Command Officers Association is refusing to accept wage or benefit concessions for the 2011-12 fiscal year. This should cause grave concern to anyone who is reading this.
When the working relationship between a city’s Police Department and City Hall is adversarial, as apparently is the case here, the residents suffer. Police Officers have a duty to serve and protect, and when they do not trust their employer, a pall is cast upon the level of service they provide. Response times can become longer. Attitudes towards the public they interact with can become surly. Officer safety, always a prime concern, can begin to take precedence over duty itself. In short, the department begins to suffer the same type of attitude problems that are commonplace in hopeless situations such as the City of Detroit.
From my outside-looking-in position, I cannot assess the situation completely and assign any sort of blame to one side or the other. I cannot tell if the Police unions are over-reacting to the demands made by an Administration caught in an untenable financial situation, or if the problem stems from an administration which has elected to play hardball for no justifiable reason. This is a byproduct of both the closed door negotiation process and a failure on the part of the local media to cover these negotiations adequately. Our local branch of the ‘fourth estate’ is letting us down.
As a concerned resident and tax paying citizen, I have the expectation that the most highly paid Police Officers in the state will work well with what must be one of the most highly paid City Administrations in the state. I expect labor issues to be a non-issue for residents, and that the cost of keeping our Police on the job will be in line with that of other communities of our size. Further, I would hope that the party or parties responsible for this break-down will be removed from the negotiation process so that it may proceed and forward progress will be made.
When I see a letter to City Council from a Police union complaining that the city is not negotiating in good faith, I fear for the well being of my city. I sincerely hope that reassurance from both the Police and the City Administration will be forthcoming immediately that negotiations have resumed in good faith.