In response to my previous column, the officer wrote:
Firstly, thank you for posting my comments on your site. I think sunlight is the best disinfectant. Many citizens I think will be surprised to learn they’ve lost so many services they once had, and now that they are aware I think they will be better able to see the consequences of these ill-advised decisions.
Let me also say that I do stand corrected. It was unfair of me to focus all of my attention on Mayor Vallejo. He is, as you said, just one of seven decision-makers and so to hold him singularly to blame was wrongheaded of me. Thanks, I appreciate hearing your input.
Mayor Vallejo, I apologize.
That said, these cuts could have been avoided and as a long-time employee of the police department I am saddened to see what has happened to this once great agency. I hope my concerns are shared by those at city hall, and I hope that BOTH SIDES work together to repair the enormous damage that has been done to the agency….for everyone’s sake, but mostly, for the citizens who pay my salary and deserve the best.
I am also pleasantly surprised to hear you speak up for our wonderful gang unit. And as I said, the most experienced member of that unit has already been forced out. Make no mistake, Stephanie, she did not want to leave. She would have gladly stayed here until the end of her career, but she got tired of the awful working conditions and so she left for a better opportunity elsewhere. I hate to say it, Stephanie, but that actually seems to be the city’s plan…to drive officers out. There seems to be an unreasonable dislike for senior officers, as Bob White so capably showed on your site, and so they seem to want to make working conditions so unacceptable that older, more experienced officers seek better jobs elsewhere. I hope that I am wrong, but that is indeed how it seems.
The gang unit was but one of the proactive tools your police department once had to try and PREVENT crime from happening in the first place, not just report on it after the fact.
The street crimes (tac unit) was another. Plain clothes officers in unmarked cars were sent to areas of high crime in an effort to catch the robbers or car thieves in the act of commiting a crime. Now, a marked patrol car goes there to report upon it after the fact.
As one of your readers said, speeding along NE 19 Avenue is getting worse. It is actually getting worse everywhere and traffic fatalities are on the rise. We’ve now had three innocent souls die in car crashes in just the last few months. And if a lack of money is our problem, then why elimimate a unit that brings in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year?
Anyway….thanks again, Stephanie. I hope together we can put some pressure on those in charge and convince them to change the course and direction of this city…so that we can all have a better place to work and live. Happy Easter!
When I asked him if I could publish his remarks, he responded:
You may publish any of my remarks on your site. In fact, please do. Let’s talk about this. It is the best if not only way to resolve this.
Jodi was an exceptional officer. Professional. Experienced. Well trained and all of those wonderful attributes came at the expense of the taxpayers of North Miami Beach…and now Miami-Dade County is getting all of those benefits at absolutely no cost to them. As I said, it makes no sense for IBM to recruit intelligent well-qualified employees, invest 26 years and countless dollars training them to be the best at what they do, then let them leave and go to work for a competitor. That is a poor business model. The police department is a business and we need to run it like a business. We need to make cuts, but we need to make cuts in a smart way, make cuts in a way that allows for the citizens to continue to receive the best service at the least cost. And I submit to you and to your readers, that is not what is happening right now.
Go back in time to when the city government and the police union were trying to avoid layoffs by negotiating concessions. I can tell you for a fact that concessions were offered to the city. Maybe not as much as they wanted, but they were indeed offered. That said, does it or does it not make sense to you to take whatever concessions you can get in order to reduce the need to layoff police officers? For instance, and these numbers are a ballpark and not precise, but the city wanted something like a 15% reduction from the union and the union was only willing to offer around 9-10%. Without a 15% reduction, the city said they’d be forced to layoff 15% of the police force…and so they ultimately did, but wouldn’t it have been smarter and better for the city to have accepted the 9% cut the union offered and then only layoff 6% of the police force? I mean, even if I give the city every benefit of the doubt and accept all of their facts and figures as the gospel truth, it still would make more sense to me for the city to have accepted whatever cuts were being offered in order to avoid having to layoff fewer people which in turn would require cutting services?
If the city had accepted the concessions offered by the union, then they could have saved some of these positions, Jodi would still be fighting gang crime here in NMB and your tax dollars would have been better spent and your neighborhoods would be better protected. That is my point.
And I think it is absolutely worth remembering that no other police department anywhere in Dade County resorted to laying off police officers. Doesn’t that, to you, smack of what is going on in Washington these days? If you cut a measly 1% out of the federal budget then the first thing that has to go are the most essential services, and the fat and the waste and the fraud remains? Here is where I am perhaps a bit more skeptical than you of the city, but are you telling me there were not other places, less essential places the city could have cut that wouldn’t have required eliminating 15% of your police department? 15% is not a small figure. NMBPD went from 113 cops down to just 96. NMBPD lost all of its special services, units that it had for decades and the only units that had the freedom to proactively combat crime in NMB.
The mayor and council could have clipped coupons to reduce its grocery bill, or they could make their family of residents eat 15% less food. They chose to put you and the other residents on a diet by reducing the amount of groceries they provide for your money. In my opinion, that is penny wise and pound foolish.
And sorry for burying the lead, but I think if you look into the dispatch statistics you’ll be personally SHOCKED at the dramatic impact these layoffs have had on police response time. And that is actually the most objective and statistically accurate way to judge the effect the layoffs have had on the service you and others receive. If you check into it, you will find that calls are being held for a lot longer before they are being dispatched and it is taking police officers a lot longer to arrive on these calls. The police department works almost every day at what is called “minimum staffing”, meaning we’ve the minimum number of police officers required to properly staff a shift. That is entirely due to the layoffs. So because we’ve just the minimum number of officers, calls have to be held by dispatchers who are waiting for an officer to clear his or her last call and become available to receive another. Officers are assigned zones, areas of the city for which they are responsible. Another casualty of the layoffs is the disintegration of what is referred to as “zone integrity”. Now, because we are short-handed and calls hold for a long time before anyone becomes available, dispatchers more frequently are forced to dispatch a call to officers without regard for their zone assignment, meaning officers assigned to Eastern Shores are routinely sent to the Jackson North area to handle a call, because the unit assigned to that area is in Eastern Shores finishing up with another call. NMB officers are now more than ever criss-cossing the city responding to calls as quickly as they can….like a police version of whack-a-mole, only not fun or funny. If you request from the police department a printout of the dispatch records and compare pre-layoff to post-layoff you are going to be amazed by how badly the layoffs have negatively impacted the services you and other taxpayers are receiving right now. Ask the city to provide you with the statistics on the number of traffic citations issued by your police depaertment, pre-layoff versus post-layoff, and again you will be amazed by how far the numbers have fallen. These are iron-clad statistics, not subjective, not my spin, but hard and fast evidence of the impact of laying off 15% of your police department.
To my brothers and sisters in blue, we too need to be ready and willing to work with city hall and get this resolved….and I think to a large extent we have. As I said, the union did offer concessions before the layoffs and 9% is nothing to sneeze at. That is quite a large hit for anyone, even Bob White the notorious cop hater on Stehanie’s site, to take overnight. But, as with the police cars, the union has and continues to try and work out a solution with the city. We are still having to play musical cars at the beginning and end of every shift, Stephanie, and despite the fact the union has offered time and again to pay a reasonable fee to pay for the cost of driving the cars to and from work, the city won’t even make an offer on that topic. The city refuses to even make an offer to try and settle what should be an easy solution. Why is that, Stephanie? That makes no sense to me at all. All around us, all around the nation, police officers pay a fee to cover the cost of take-home cars so the citizens don’t pay it….yet here in NMB, the city won’t even talk about what seems an obvious and simple solution. How come? And at what cost? So because the city won’t even talk about a fee for the take-home cars, officers have to come back to the station to park their cars each day, and parking the police car means having to remove your personal car from the parking space so there is room to park the police car, then after swapping parking spaces, officers have to remove some of their personal items from the car since the car is to be left at the station overnight. All of this takes times, all of this removes officers from service and makes them unavailable to respond to calls for service from the taxpayers. There are periods of time every day when no one, no police officers are available to respond. Does that make sense to any reasonable person….when the solution is so simple and so easy? The union is begging to pay, but the city won’t take our money? Imagine you are the victim of a home invasion or a violent robbery, and there is not a single cop able to come to your aid because they are all in the parking lot moving around cars? How stupid is that? How unfair is that? And how avoidable is that?
We, the police officers of North Miami Beach, appreciate the citizens and we know the citizens have treated us very well. These are tough economic times and we would love to show them the same appreciation in return, but the decisions that are being made by the decision-makers in our city are making that almost impossible. Almost every single day I have to apologize to a citizen for how long it took me to get there, but once I am there I try as best I can to solve their problem. Maybe that’s we need here, fewer decision-makers and more problem-solvers. I call on the mayor and council to become problem-solvers, not just budget-cutters or decision-makers. Anyone can eat 15% less food, but a smart shopper figures out how to eat the same amount of food for less money.
I will be sure and pass along your kind words to Jodi the next time we chat.