Police Layoffs on Table in Chula Vista Budget Crisis

Officers' union hires PR counsel, reaches out to citizens on website

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCSanDiego

    To close a municipal budget gap that's proportionately larger than San Diego's, Chula Vista is looking at laying off up to 20 percent of its police force.

    The police officers' union, though, has hired a public relations firm to help take its case to the city's residents and local news media.

    Chula Vista City Manager Jim Sandoval said that if the Chula Vista Police Officers Association and three other employee bargaining groups forego raises and pay their full share of pension costs, no officers will be laid off.

    Police Layoffs on Table in Chula Vista Budget Crisis

    [DGO] Police Layoffs on Table in Chula Vista Budget Crisis
    South Bay City faces $18 million budget deficit.

    Meanwhile, the officers said the city really needs to be adding public safety resources.

    "The Chula Vista Police Officers Association for the past several years had been there consistently every time the city has needed to cut the budget, and we've given back every single time," said CVPOA's secretary and spokesman, Lt. Phil Collum. "I don't think this time is necessarily any different. Our perspective is, no matter what happens with bargaining groups, we are so understaffed at the police department in Chula Vista, we cannot cut public safety."

    Besides retaining PR counsel to handle media outreach, the CVPOA is using its website to urge citizens to contact city officials. The police officers association points out that Chula Vista needs to hire 90 more cops just to match the region's per capita average for law enforcement staffing. Instead, management is looking at laying off 33 of 230 uniformed officers and eliminating 11 vacant positions.

    That idea isn't playing well among residents of the county's second largest city.

    "I don't feel safe, because there's already been a couple of shootings across the street from my house," said Yasmin Hernandez. "So if they're going to cut so many officers, then how am I going to feel safe around my own neighborhood?"

    Said Manuel Martinez: "The officers, we need them, because you never know ... by having officers around, even just by driving around, people that are doing bad things are going to back up and say, 'OK, I can't do nothing right here'.  And they just stop or slow down."

    Larry Breitfelder, president of the Chula Vista Taxpayers Association, said that public safety services are paramount and that there will be no painless closures to the city's $18 million budget gap.

    "Cutting police officers is plainly unacceptable," Breitfelder said. "However, our pension situation is unsustainable. So at the end of the day, what we have to do is come together on a pension package that allows us to recruit and retain good cops without breaking the rest of the city."

    Chula Vista police chief Dave Bejarano said the department is working on possible solutions with private firms and the school districts, which are about to lose their resource officers.

    Those officers' duties will have to be back-filled by general patrol officers, eventually driving up average police response times citywide.

    A total of up to 146 city workers could be laid off unless there are union concessions.