San Bernardino Police Officers Association Featured by PORAC

The following is the complete text of the PORAC Member Spotlight article

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Incorporated in 1953, the same year as PORAC, the San Bernardino Police Officers Association (SBPOA) represents almost 200 members of the San Bernardino Police Department in the ranks of officer, detective and sergeant.

Originally formed as a benevolent and social organization, the association evolved over time and took on officer representation and advocacy roles, mirroring the overall police labor movement in California in the 1960s and 1970s.

The SBPOA even boasts a former PORAC President, San Bernardino Police Officer Bob Van Der Linda, who served from 1962 to 1963.

Part of the SBPOA’s advocacy for its officers has included being vigilant and politically active at the municipal level for decades, including repeatedly defending Section 186 of the San Bernardino City Charter, which guarantees that police and firefighters be paid the average salary of 10 other cities with populations of 100,000 to 250,000.

This amendment has long maintained the stability of the police force by ensuring that salaries remained competitive regardless of city politics and budget fluctuations.

While it has provided steadfast leadership to its members for decades, the SBPOA has shown its true mettle over the last several years, which have been full of unprecedented difficulties.

In 2012, after being particularly hard hit by the recession and foreclosure crisis that decimated the region’s tax base, the city of San Bernardino found itself with a $50 million budget shortfall and unfunded pension liabilities — and became the state’s third city to declare bankruptcy.

Homicides shot up 50% within the same year, while the number of officers on the Department dropped from 340 in 2012 to 260 at the end of 2015.

Helping to exacerbate this perfect storm was state prison realignment, which, starting in late 2011, dumped several thousand criminals back into the county’s prison system, with many of them being released back into the community.

In addition to all of these factors already taking a toll on morale, the San Bernardino P.D. was faced with internal tragedies: Officer Shaun Jarvis was killed in May 2014 in an off-duty motorcycle accident, Officer Gabriel Garcia was critically injured during a shootout in August 2014 and Officer Bryce Hanes was killed by a drunk driver in November 2015.

Through it all, SBPOA supported its members, stayed on top of the issues, took its case to the residents, presented solutions to city management and, step by step, proved itself to be an invaluable partner in leading the city and Department out of crisis.

“During all of the above-mentioned events, our POA Board members came together and worked through the problems as a team,” says SBPD Sergeant Steve Turner, who guided the SBPOA during the turmoil as President from 2011 to 2015 and currently serves as Treasurer.

“One of the first things I did when I became President was change the culture of the POA Board of Directors. I worked diligently to make each Board member feel a part of the team. Once we jelled, we dealt with each event as a unit.”

Making Its Case With the Public

Putting faith in its members and the community and making direct communications a priority served the SBPOA well in achieving its goals. The association fully utilized its website and leveraged social media to its advantage.

“Our Facebook page has been used regularly for the dissemination of public information or notification, and our website has a public page that permits us to reach out to citizens, businesses and civic leaders with news and information. We also utilize a Twitter account,” says the current President, SBPD Detective Steve Desrochers, who served as Patrol Representative from 2011 to 2014 and Vice President in 2015.

“We also own the site SanBernardinoCityBankruptcy.com, which during the height of the crisis featured information related to the bankruptcy, articles, and election and campaign information.”

These ongoing public information and outreach efforts paid off in August 2015, when the SBPOA announced a five-year police contract with the City that was also overwhelmingly supported by the rank and file.

With a focus on both keeping experienced officers and maintaining recruitment, the agreement was a good first step toward rebuilding the agency and helping to reduce crime and violence.

“A bankruptcy is probably one of the most difficult things for an association to go through,” Turner says, “mainly because the bankruptcy automatically places the association into a creditor group, which allows the City to change the MOU. Being able to negotiate a contract with the City during the bankruptcy has to be one of our greatest accomplishments. While we took a haircut in some areas, we were able to negotiate a contract that included enhancements for our members.”

“Though we did not score a win on every point, we were able to bring back something positive for the entire membership,” concurs Desrochers. “Everyone seemed to want something. Through all of that (and likely because of that) our negotiations team was able to produce a positive contract that impacted the entire membership, and probably the whole organization.”

Desrochers credits Turner with successfully navigating the negotiations and rough times. “During a period that is arguably the darkest time in our history, Steve kept his cool, level-headed demeanor and dealt daily with civic leaders, Department management, a bunch of attorneys who all seemed to be in charge of various areas of the bankruptcy, the prospect of being contracted out to the SBSD, and a number of line-of-duty incidents,” he says.

Support From the Top

SBPOA leadership points out that PORAC was highly visible and ready to provide assistance from the moment that San Bernardino’s financial troubles started to hit the news. “We never asked, but President Durant, on more than one occasion, contacted me and offered his support,” says Turner.

Desrochers says the SBPOA values its relationship with PORAC not only for training, insurance benefits and LDF coverage, but also for its ongoing moral support and advocacy. “What we’ve managed to do on a local level would likely not have been as effective if PORAC was not so active at the state level and providing us information about their activities to pass on to our members,” he says.

“It’s a good feeling to know that an organization of PORAC’s caliber is not ‘too big’ to remember the individual organization during times of tumult and that they are aware and there to help, if needed. I appreciate President Durant keeping in touch with us throughout the process.”

Maintaining Priorities

The association has always been a big contributor to community causes and is proud of the fact that it has kept up its philanthropic and civic efforts under duress.

“That stuff doesn’t stop just because we face a bit of adversity,” says Desrochers. “We still conduct fundraisers for our San Bernardino Police Officers Foundation, we still held a candidate forum at CSUSB to inform the public about the various positions of the council candidates, we still gave out scholarships (two per year), we continued to help those less able families with holiday baskets, we assisted with the coordination of a Thanksgiving potluck for our members, and so many other things.”

The POA also supports youth football and baseball, distributes gifts during the Christmas season, and on April 9 will hold its first annual Heroes Ride to benefit fallen and injured SBPD officers.

Inland Regional Center Tragedy Puts Spotlight on Heroes

On December 2, 2015, the entire world held its breath and watched live as the SBPD, in close cooperation with other law enforcement agencies, tracked down the ruthless terrorists who killed 14 people and seriously injured 22 more at the Inland Regional Center. The horrific event rocked the community that had already been through so much in recent years.

Despite the terrible loss of life, there have been some bright spots in the aftermath. The officers involved were widely praised for their heroic response to the shooting, and the community has pulled together and expressed tremendous appreciation for its dedicated police forces.

“They responded in the most professional, courageous manner that could be expected,” says Turner. “I’m very proud of all of the officers who responded and took down the terrorists. We have been saying for several years that ‘safety is our top priority.’ I think we proved that at the IRC event. The citizens are extremely supportive. It seemed that every day for a whole month we had citizens and businesses providing food, snacks, etc., as a thank-you.”

Morale has increased as a result. “All indications are that our public believes that their community is very well protected, and that the SBPD is capable of fitting the changing circumstances that we face on a daily basis,” says Turner.

“I think we each learned a lot about ourselves and our agency as a result of this unfortunate incident,” says Desrochers. “Everyone was forced to dig deep, not only on that day, but for many days after the initial incident. It’s difficult enough to live and work through a municipal bankruptcy. It brings with it deep concerns about the future, and the ability to provide for one’s family. The constant stream of news about the process can really deflate one’s psyche. When a major incident like the IRC happens, you can see everyone putting all of that aside and returning to their very core.”

Looking Forward, Association Lessons

As bankruptcy proceedings are still ongoing (with a federal judge rejecting a proposal in December and another draft to be reviewed in March), San Bernardino’s fate and potential city charter changes are still to be decided.

The SBPOA remains focused on public safety and will vigilantly fight to regain proper staffing levels, says Turner, who is hopeful that the positive publicity after the IRC incident will increase recruitment.

Having now experienced city bankruptcy, decimation of its department, line-of-duty incidents and a terrorism event, the SBPOA has some important advice for other associations: Establish a close relationship with your community, keep communications open and stay politically involved.

“I am now a total believer in using social media to improve your citizens’ knowledge of what your association believes to be important and ” says Desrochers. “If you don’t have a Facebook page or Twitter, find a way to get that up and running.”

“Maintain a strong political action committee that seeks out any and all pertinent information about local candidates,” he adds. “The politicians will not volunteer information; you have to pull it from them and analyze it in order to make an informed recommendation to your citizens. This is key, because if you build your name recognition or ‘brand’ within your community, they will put some serious consideration into your political recommendations, because they trust you. Do the work and be vocal, and use social media to spread your opinions far and wide.”

San Bernardino Police Officers Association’s Statement on City Recalls

The San Bernardino Police Officers Association opposes the recall of any City elected officials at this time.

The recall process is reserved for instances where an elected official’s misconduct in office is brazenly unethical or clearly illegal. In such cases it is in the best interest of the people to seek the removal of that person from office rather than wait until the next scheduled election.

Such circumstances do not exist at this time and a Special Election should not be called.

This is the same position the San Bernardino Police Officers Association held when recall petitions were circulated against City elected officials in 2013. If at the depths of San Bernardino’s bankruptcy we could not support recalls, it makes even less sense for our Association to do so today.

Additionally, were any recall to move forward it would be at an extravagant cost to San Bernardino’s taxpayers. It makes little sense for a bankrupt city to spend $100,000 or more for a Special Election that is not necessary.

Over the last five years the San Bernardino Police Department has been dreadfully understaffed. This directly affects our ability to enforce the law and prevent crime.  Rather than waste this money on an unnecessary recall election, the people of San Bernardino would be better served if their money was spent to reduce crime and make the city’s neighborhoods safer.

As always, the safety of San Bernardino’s residents remains our top priority.

SBPOA President’s Statement on the Attacks Last Week in San Bernardino

The following is a statement by Steve Turner, President of the San Bernardino Police Officers Association:

For the last four years I’ve had the privilege of representing San Bernardino’s rank and file police officers as the president of the San Bernardino Police Officers Association.

What occurred in our city last Wednesday is unlike anything any of us have ever experienced as peace officers.

On behalf of the members of the San Bernardino Police Officers Association, we extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims whose lives were brutally taken from them.  We want you to know how deeply saddened we are for your loss. We are here for you and we continue to pray for you during this time of incredible grief.

To the residents of San Bernardino, we want to thank you for all of your words and displays of support.  We also appreciate the prayers, love, support, and sympathy you have shown to the victims and their loved ones.  It is through your loving actions that our nation and the world has seen what San Bernardino is truly made of.

As President of the San Bernardino Police Officers Association I want to acknowledge the police officers who responded to last Wednesday’s terrorist attack.  The officers that responded to the calls for help did so demonstrating the highest degrees of professionalism and bravery. Their goal was to protect the lives of those inside the Inland Regional Center building and to prevent any further fatalities.

These officers arrived on scene and immediately focused on locating and protecting the innocent lives while searching for the attackers.  They arrived at a scene of absolute horror.   They faced victims, survivors, explosives, and a very real concern that the terrorists were still at the location.

With all of those obstacles, they remained calm and professional while rescuing individuals from the building, without allowing any one else to be harmed. The actions of these officers were nothing short of heroic.  I have never been so proud to represent these fine police officers than I am at this time.

The last five years have been difficult on the community of San Bernardino and its police department.  Bankruptcy and budget cuts have diminished services that residents of most cities take for granted, including law enforcement.

Throughout these challenges, the men and the women of the San Bernardino Police Officers Association remained committed to protecting the residents of the city we serve.

Our promise to San Bernardino’s residents has been and remains, “Your Safety Is Always Our Top Priority.”

San Bernardino Police Officers Association Endorses Bessine Littlefield Richard for City Council

Bessine profile

The San Bernardino Police Officers Association is endorsing Bessine Littlefield Richard for the City Council in Ward 6.

“Having met with and interviewed all four candidates running for the City Council in the Sixth Ward, the San Bernardino Police Officers Association firmly believes Bessine Littlefield Richard is the best and most qualified person for the job,” said Steve Turner, president of the San Bernardino Police Officers Association.

“As a lifelong resident of the West Side, Bessine has deep roots in the community,” Turner said.  “She knows the community.  She knows the people.  She will be a strong voice on the City Council for their needs and their interests, especially when it comes to making the neighborhoods and families of the Sixth Ward safer.”

“The San Bernardino Police Officers Association looks forward to working with Bessine Littlefield Richard on the City Council.  Her energy, ideas, and commitment to public service will go a long way towards improving the quality of life throughout San Bernardino, revitalizing the economy, and making our city and its residents safer.  We hope you will join us in supporting Bessine Littlefield Richard for City Council,” Turner said.

San Bernardino Police Officers Association Endorses City Councilmember Henry Nickel for Re-Election

The San Bernardino Police Officers Association is pleased to announce the endorsement of Henry Nickel for re-election to the San Bernardino City Council in Ward 5.

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“Henry Nickel brings a very strong work ethic, civility, and a high level of professionalism to the City Council,” said Steve Turner, president of the San Bernardino Police Officers Association.

“Councilmember Nickel has been a steady hand at City Hall during the multiple trials facing our city as it works through bankruptcy.  He has been unwavering in his commitment to making the residents and families of San Bernardino safer.  He has stood with the men and women of the San Bernardino Police Officers Association and we are honored to stand with him now in his re-election bid,” Turner said.

San Bernardino Police Officers Association Hosting City Council Candidate Forums

The San Bernardino Police Officers Association is pleased to announce it will be hosting candidate forums in the upcoming elections for San Bernardino City Council in Wards 6 and 7.

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“Based on the success of the Mayoral Candidates Forum we hosted in 2013, the SBPOA has decided to again hold public candidate forums for those running this year in the 6th and 7th City Council Wards,” said Steve Turner, president of the San Bernardino Police Officers Association.

The candidate forums will both be held on Saturday, September 19, 2015 at Cal State San Bernardino in the Santos Manuel Student Union Theatre.

The Ward 6 forum will begin at 1:30 PM and the Ward 7 forum will begin at 4:00 PM.   Brad Pomerance, host of Charter Communications’ California Edition, has graciously agreed to serve as the moderator for both forums.

Brad Pomerance, host of Charter's California Edition, will serve as moderator of SBPOA's City Council Candidate Forums.

Brad Pomerance, host of Charter’s California Edition, will serve as moderator of SBPOA’s City Council Candidate Forums.

“With the crowded fields in both of these races, the San Bernardino Police Officers Association wanted to provide this opportunity to allow the voters of these two wards to get to know the candidates, their backgrounds, and where they stand on the issues facing our city,” Turner said.

In City Council Ward 6, four candidates are seeking the seat currently held by Rikke Van Johnson.  Johnson is retiring from the City Council and not seeking re-election.

In City Council Ward 7 there are also five candidates.  City Councilmember James Mulvihill is seeking re-election and facing four challengers.

“All candidates in these two races have been invited to participate in the forums, whether or not they are seeking the endorsement of the Police Officers Association for their campaigns.”  Turner said.  “SBPOA has not endorsed any candidate in either council race.  If SBPOA chooses to endorse a candidate in either Ward 6 or Ward 7, such a decision will only be made after the candidate forums.”

The San Bernardino Police Officers Association will solicit questions from its members, community groups, and the voting public to be asked at the candidate forums.

New Five-Year Contract A Good First Step Towards Rebuilding the San Bernardino Police Department

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The San Bernardino Police Officers Association and the City of San Bernardino reached agreement this week on the terms of a contract that will allow the City’s bankruptcy to move closer to finalization.

On Monday, City Council unanimously approved the five-year contract which has the overwhelming support of San Bernardino’s rank-and-file police officers.

“This agreement is both fair and reasonable given the current conditions facing our membership and that of the City,” said Steve Turner, president of the San Bernardino Police Officers Association.

“Keeping experienced officers working our streets, as well as the recruitment of new officers were some of the concerns of the police officers. This agreement should address those concerns and help to bring stability to the department, which has lost more than 33% of sworn and civilian staffing since the Bankruptcy filing, back in August of 2012,” Turner said.

“It is a good first step toward rebuilding our agency and will also help to reduce crime and violence on our streets,” Turner said, “It is our hope that the agreement will receive broad support from both the residents and the federal bankruptcy court.”

The agreement is comprehensive and will also see San Bernardino’s police officers continue to share the costs of retirement benefits and health care rates.

 

 

San Bernardino Voters Reject Measure Q

The following is the statement of Steve Turner, president of the San Bernardino Police Officers Association:

The men and women of the San Bernardino Police Officers Association must thank the residents of San Bernardino for their overwhelming support during the election.

The San Bernardino Police Department has a very long history of support from the hard working residents of our community.  We do not take for granted the value and depth of this support. Our officers will continue to provide the highest quality service to the residents of San Bernardino.

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A resounding message was sent to the Mayor and Common Council last evening. The voters are tired of the constant attacks on public safety and the defeat of Measure Q clearly directs to all involved that it is time to move forward.  This message must not be minimized or disregarded.

Though we do not see eye to eye on the exact process needed to modernize the City Charter, we do recognize and acknowledge that the Committee in support of Measure Q is equally committed to improving San Bernardino.   We sincerely appreciate their efforts and deeply believe that by working together, we can unite our community to the benefit of all residents.

As the voters have clearly stated, they expect the Mayor and Common Council to make public safety a top priority.  The San Bernardino Police Officers Association once again stands ready to work with the City in a collaborative fashion.  We believe that working together we can find the common ground to make San Bernardino safer and bring much needed stability to the men and women who are dedicated to residents safety, while also containing costs.

Once again we thank the residents of San Bernardino for their support. We will always be here for San Bernardino because the community’s safety is our top priority.

San Bernardino Police Paid 19% Less Than Other Inland Metro Officers

The following is from Steve Turner, president of the San Bernardino Police Officers Association, in reply to an article in the San Bernardino Sun on October 23, 2014:

While the city points their finger at the police officers, while telling the community that it’s the fault of the “automatic raises” created by Charter 186, they do so with the hope that the community overlooks the obvious. IF… I will say it again, IF the police officers were paid an average wage, the costs of police salary increases may not be $1.3 million. And keep in mind, we are talking about an average salary in a city that has an above average crime problem.

What the city is not telling the community is that currently, San Bernardino Police Officers are 19% below the average of Inland Metro police agencies, in total compensation. When I say Inland Metro agencies, I’m talking about police agencies in the Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, not the cities included in the article. You will not get anyone from the city (Mayor, City Manager, etc) to dispute this because the numbers don’t lie.

And, what the city leaders want you to forget is that the San Bernardino Police Officers have not actually seen those salaries as indicated in the article. Let me remind you that several years ago the police officers agreed to a 10% salary concession. We agreed because we want to be a partner with the city in providing solutions. We continued those concessions for a few years. Then, as a thank you for agreeing to the concessions, the city decided to impose a 14% cut to our salaries. Despite the cuts, officers continued to work extremely hard to provide a quality service to the citizens.

Inaccurate Comparisons of Detroit and San Bernardino Continue

On Friday the bankrupt City of Detroit unveiled a plan to cut the current pension benefits being paid to its already retired workers.

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Detroit (Photo credit: Ann Millspaugh)

Many immediately seized on this news, believing that what’s happening in Detroit will also happen to bankrupt California cities like San Bernardino.

The Sacramento Bee  reported the following:

In a case with significant implications for public pensions in California, the bankrupt city of Detroit proposed slashing retirement benefits by up to 34 percent in a plan unveiled Friday.

The city, which is $18 billion in debt, would cut pensions 10 percent for retired police officers and firefighters, and 34 percent for other municipal retirees as it tries to resolve the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history. Unsecured creditors would receive about 20 percent recovery, in the form of new securities issued by the city.

Detroit’s plan is being closely watched in California, where two cities are trying to exit bankruptcy and other cities are facing financial stress over rising pension costs. The city of San Bernardino has hinted that it might try to reduce its $24 million-a-year bill to CalPERS, although it hasn’t yet filed a reorganization plan. Last fall the city of Stockton proposed a bankruptcy plan that leaves pensions untouched but restructures much of its bond debt.

However, equating the different pension systems of the two bankrupt cities is the proverbial apples to oranges  comparison and could lead many to the wrong conclusion.

As we previously reported, there are significant differences between the Detroit’s municipal pension system and the state pension system that San Bernardino belongs to.

CalPERS noted this in the Sacramento Bee article.

“…officials with CalPERS said California pensions have additional legal protections not available to workers in Detroit. Notably, California public pensions are protected by state law and the state constitution, according to lawyers for CalPERS.”

So if you are worried or excited about what’s going on in Detroit, don’t fret or celebrate just yet.

There are significant differences between the pension systems for each city and the laws that govern them, and the federal bankruptcy court takes that all into account in these cases – just as it did in Vallejo and Stockton where pensions were not changed.