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A letter from the Mammoth Lakes Police Officers Association

October 12, 2012

 

The Mammoth Lakes Police Officers Association (MLPOA) would like to thank the residents, business owners, visitors, and part-time residents of Mammoth Lakes who have been supportive of us for the past 26 years.

We would also like to express our sincere thank you for your support over the past couple of weeks during these trying times.

The MLPOA is very concerned about the decisions of the Town Council. We are concerned for your safety and ours if the Town follows through with its plan to lay-off seven of the 17 sworn officers and eliminate two of the three field supervisors.

The Town Council’s plan also eliminates the Police Lieutenant position. This plan will result in a 46 percent reduction in sworn personnel from 17 to 10. It is apparent that the Town Council would like to have the Mammoth Lakes Police Department be responsible for more than half its annual payment on the lawsuit it lost at the rate of $2 million a year.

Currently the budget for the MLPD is $4,820,415, which represents 27 percent of the general fund budget.

The Town’s proposed cuts to MLPD would equal 56 percent of the annual payment this year, 58 percent next year and 64 percent the following year.

Some have concluded that Mammoth Lakes doesn’t need so many police officers, and that it’s a nice quiet town with little crime.

Don’t be fooled by not knowing what you don’t know.

The Mammoth Lakes Police Department handles hundreds of felony assaults, rapes, robberies, domestic violence, and burglaries. In 2011 alone, the department handled 7,422 incidents that required police action; of the 7,422 incidents, 3,154 of them were radio calls.

Thanks to our dedicated, skilled, and competent police force we are able to solve many of these crimes.

It is only due to current staffing levels that MLPD can handle these crimes and incidents in a timely manner in which perpetrators are arrested. Such will not be the case with the proposed lay-offs. 

Not only will the proposed reduction hamper the MLPD’s ability to quickly and competently solve crimes, other services the public has come to expect from the department will not be possible with a force of 10 officers. Those include but are not limited to:

One of many recent examples involved a child molestation case. In this case, officers arrested the suspect as he was leaving the scene at the time of the event. If services were reduced at the time of this incident, there wouldn’t have been sufficient officers to respond in a timely manner and make the arrest.

Officers will be very limited and may not be able to provide regular public service activities such as, helping tourists put on chains and/or pull people from a snow bank, jump starting cars, assist with lockouts, returning dogs to their owners, giving people rides home, and the other daily activities that are part of the reason we live in Mammoth Lakes.

Proactive activity that reduces crime will be substantially impacted. These activities would include bar checks, DUI patrol, and an overall less visible police presence. We can anticipate an increase in drug activity, thefts, property crime, assaults, drunks, and juvenile crime. 

With the proposed plan, there will no longer be a School Resource Officer (SRO), or an officer assigned to the narcotics task force.

In recent years the SRO prevented a planned school shooting by a student in which the student was arrested and handgun was recovered along with other evidence of the pre-planned event.

The drug problem in Mammoth Lakes is significant; however it is curtailed by the narcotics task force.

Without narcotic enforcement, the drug problem will be out of control. A recent example was when a young person overdosed on heroin. The narcotics task force was able to work the case and ultimately arrest the individual who had supplied the victim with the drugs that killed him/her.

This will lead to more thefts, more property crime, and more assaults. Not to mention the gang member drug dealers who will come from Reno, Fresno and Los Angeles area to set up shop in an un-policed Mammoth Lakes.

Some have concluded that officers are overpaid and over benefited.

Professional, quality law enforcement service is not cheap. In comparison, there are many agencies that have lesser benefit packages and many with higher.

The existing MLPOA contract was approved by the town council and has been changed several times through negotiations. The contracts are through mutual agreement.

Nothing has been forced upon council. What you don’t hear at the council meetings is that during the last pre-bankruptcy mediation, the MLPOA was asked to concede 24 percent in salary/benefits/personnel, while the other town associations were asked to concede 10 percent.

The MLPOA gave up 23 percent in salary/benefits/personnel, while the other creditors and associations gave up 10 percent.

Because of the cuts given up by the MLPOA, council approved the budget and the police department is operating within its approved budget. 

It should also be known that the MLPOA and other employee associations voluntarily negotiated with the town two years ago to help the town meet their budget.

Again, the other employee groups were asked to concede 10 percent while the MLPOA was asked to concede 24 percent to avoid layoffs.

This isn’t about the police department causing the town to go broke. This is about a political need to layoff police officers.  

The employee associations were told by the town during pre-bankruptcy that they “just need one last cut.”

We all gave the town what they wanted, and here we are two months later and they want to cut nearly half the police force? What about the clause in the MLPOA contract signed by the town that states that the town will maintain a staffing level for the police department at 17 officers?

This proposed plan will jeopardize the safety of our residents, visitors, and officers. The town definitely has a problem, but the money for the down payment and annual installments already exists within the town’s budget outside of public safety and other “essential services.”

One would have to ask themselves, why no cuts to other departments such as housing, tourism or transportation? All the advertising in the world or free transportation will not sell an unsafe community, even if the skiing is great. Who wants to have their skis stolen, car burglarized or become the victim of an assault? As those problems grow, tourism will shrink.

Whatever the final decision of the council is, the damage to the police department is already done and may be irreversible.

Many officers are seeking employment with other law enforcement agencies and will likely be hired, while others are retiring early.

These vested officers will be difficult to replace in a town where public safety and officer safety are not a priority. Hundreds of thousands of invested dollars will be unnecessarily lost because of the council’s political decision to continue to attack the MLPOA.

Mammoth Lakes Police Officers Association

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