Palo Alto police officers defer $800,000 in raises

Union votes to delay 6 percent raise until 2011, extend contract with city by a year

In a move that will save Palo Alto about $800,000 during bleak financial times, the city's police union has voted to defer the 6 percent pay raise it was slated to receive in 2010.

The Palo Alto Police Officers Association, which represents about 80 officers, voted by a 75 percent majority to defer the raises, a component in the union's 2007 contract with the city, Agent Wayne Benitez, police union president, announced at the outset of a City Council Finance Committee meeting Tuesday night.

The union also agreed to extend its three-year contract, which was due to expire in 2010, until 2011.

Benitez said the deferral will cost each officer about $10,000 in lost wages. The vote was tallied Saturday morning, he said.

The union's announcement came about two weeks after the city's fire union agreed to defer raises a year, which will save the city about $700,000.

It also came at the beginning of a meeting where the committee was scheduled to consider cutting $500,000 from the Police Department's budget.

"It is our hope that the money we saved through our voluntary salary reductions will not only assist the city to close its deficit but prevent cuts in vital city services," Benitez told the committee.

"As Palo Alto employees, we are not immune to, nor unaware of, the hardships felt by the many during these economic times, yet we will continue to assist the members of this community to the best of our abilities," he said.

The decision was lauded by the committee, which was completing its series of meetings on the 2010 budget Tuesday night.

Vice Mayor Jack Morton, who had previously criticized both unions for excessive overtime spending, thanked the city's rank-and-file officers for doing their part to help the city get out of a $10 million financial hole, which could grow to $12.5 million if the state holds back sales tax and other revenues.

"I never had a doubt, not for a moment, that you'll all step up to the plate and help our city solve this," Morton said.

Councilman Larry Klein also thanked the officers, calling them "great citizens in our community."

Chair Pat Burt called the union's decision "an outstanding comment on the commitment of our Police Department, and prospectively of other employee groups."

But even with both fire and police unions agreeing to defer raises, the city is still banking on concessions from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 521, which represents about 600 city workers.

City Manager James Keene said city officials are currently in negotiations with the union.

The projected $10 million budget gap assumes that neither the employees represented by the union nor city management will receive pay increases in fiscal year 2010, which begins July 1. Otherwise, the deficit would balloon to $12 million, even without the threatened additional state withholding of revenues from cities, counties and districts


"We've built into the budget assumptions that we'd be able to avoid or defer pay increases for the management/professional class," Keene said. "And, as we go to negotiate with SEIU this year, that we'd have no pay increases for FY 2010.

"That is subject to change."


Posted by Antonov, a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Why should they defer raises?
the city found 32,000,000.00 in Reserves.
dont cut their pay, we need them.
cut the council members pay, They should work for free anyways.

Posted by Chris, a resident of Barron Park
on May 27, 2009 at 12:32 am

The PAPD is awesome and they deserve their %6 increase in pay. This is only a testament to their commitment and devotion to the city of PA. PAPD rocks!

Posted by Dan, a resident of Monroe Park
on May 27, 2009 at 6:41 am

If a 6% raise is $10,000, then PA police officers must be making over $160,000 a year. Do they really make that much?

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of another community
on May 27, 2009 at 7:33 am

"If a 6% raise is $10,000, then PA police officers must be making over $160,000 a year. Do they really make that much?"

If you include overtime, which is pretty much guaranteed to all officers who want it, then yes.

However, it is not the salaries that are going to bankrupt the City, it is the unbelieveable pension and employee benefit costs.

Unfortunately, unless City management is able to get major concessions from all the bargaining units in both these areas then major cuts to services will be needed. Simply deferring pay raises is not nearly enough. I can't believe that the Council, City Management, the unions and employees don't understand this.

However, I also beleive that some City services should be suspended during this time of economic challenge. But the City Coucil will not step up to the plate and make the hard choices to suspend their pet projects. Instead they will defer more street repair and other needed infrastructure improvements.

Posted by Ned, a resident of Downtown North
on May 27, 2009 at 9:35 am

It is not that all officers make $160k. Review the salary postings. Any raises or deductions also affect their pension. Based on what was posted, it is probably closer to $6-8K (gross pay) for the rank and file officers. Remember this raise is GUARANTEED in their contract and they agreed to defer it in this economy where every dollar counts.

Posted by Paul, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 27, 2009 at 10:18 am

Perhaps the police are "overpaid", whether due to overtime or their pension benefits. Perhaps the firemen are also "overpaid". Perhaps this decision to defer increases and extend the contract is a cynical attempt to avoid pressure to do something more basic.

These are all possibly true, but I choose to feel good about these decisions on the part of the 2 unions, whose members provide very difficult, valued, essential services to the city.

Rather than turning this into some painful long drawn-out process (think California State budget process), they chose to take action quickly - for this too I am thankful. This feels like a good news story during some tough financial times.

Posted by Penny, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 27, 2009 at 10:34 am

I've had the good fortune to work with various PAPD officers on school commute safety. They are well-trained professionals, truly dedicated public servants, as they have demonstrated once again with this offer. Thank you, PAPD, for all that you do.

I hope this will help the city avoid making the proposed Tier 2 budget cuts to the Traffic Safety Team. We need PAPD enforcement visibly present on school commute corridors to maintain a street environment that is safe for school-bound children (and everyone else), particularly in during the heavily congested morning peak hours.

Reducing traffic enforcement during this time may have negative impacts on trip reduction because parents who perceive unsafe streets may opt to drive more children to school. Building and maintaining street capacity for additional auto traffic is very expensive (and impossible on some school routes where the city does not have additional right-of-way for capacity improvements). Cutting traffic safety might be a "penny-wise but pound foolish" say nothing of the effects on public safety. Crashes are expensive (in numerous ways) for the individuals involved and the city.

I hope we can minimize budget cuts to traffic safety.

Posted by Community Member, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 27, 2009 at 10:34 am

Prices are going down, not up, most especially housing and auto costs, which tend to comprise a large part of family expenses. It is nice to see that folks are recognizing this and are willing to be reasonable. These hard times are going to last for several years. Unless the dollar collapses, there will be no inflation. It is more important to protect jobs and services than to fight for raises as the cost of living actually declines.

Posted by Fillmore, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on May 27, 2009 at 11:28 am

Overpaid? According to an earlier news story, the PAPD is in the mid-range if not lower half for pay and benefits among comparable police departments. Our police and fire personnel seem to be receiving the industry standard for pay and benefits, which I support, because they do critical, dangerous work that not just anyone is capable of doing. For those qualifed and willing, a public safety career should be rewarding to this degree.

Posted by jazzman, a resident of another community
on May 27, 2009 at 2:42 pm

I strongly applaud the PAPD for this.

I live in San Jose and so for SJPD and SJFD has not offered to do the same.

Posted by Mike, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 27, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Comparing the pay for the Palo Alto police to others in the bay area is meaningless if you are looking for value received. Other departments pay simply reflects how well and recently their union negotiated, and how inept the city leaders of that town/city were in the process.

The figure for comparison that makes sense is the real annual total cost by position including pension contribution and benefits. Then compare it to similar positions in private industry. You would be suprised.

But those all-in figures are not charted, so you will not get a chance to see how much we pay for police, fire, utility workers, clerks, etc. You might be shocked.

You, me, all of us that are taxpayers are paying for early and extravagant retirements for all our public workers. The money is not coming from somewhere else. It is from us.

Posted by MR.IRONIC, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Why not give the money to education. Classes sizes are going up teachers getting fired left and right but cops want a raise? If there was more money invested in education crime would be cut in half.

1 teacher can do more good than 10 police officers. Dont get me started on teachers salaries. Building more jails than colleges?

like Agerman said "they ask why we're so violent, maybe its because they built 6 jails and only 1 college"

They say education is important then why dont they invest in it.

Posted by Ned, a resident of Downtown North
on May 27, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Mike: comparing civil servant jobs to private industry is comparing apples to oranges. When private industry as BOOMING, civil servants were not...but now that that the tables have turned, private industry is whining...did you spend all your stock options and bonuses? oh please.

Mr. Ironic: next time a crook breaks down your door and holds your family at gun point, call your school teacher. I am not putting teachers down (i have many teacher friends), but REALLY? These kids are not going to school anyways!! How many kids do you see walking around during the day during the school week? LOTS!

Posted by MR.IRONIC, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2009 at 4:54 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Teachers can change the world by giving kids hope that they can excell in a world that is set up for them to fail. Teachers are the reason I am a honest citizen making an honest living dispite all the BS I endure. Teachers should make more than cops. So again I say why must we continue to overlook the value of education.

Posted by Mike, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 27, 2009 at 5:30 pm

Your reply is meaningless. If one wishes to take part in boom years, they can also be in privsate industry.

Public work has always been the safe harbor for those unwilling or unable to take risk. and pay was appropriate for that security.

You will have a really hard time proving that we get superior workers in the public sector. Plenty are competent-few are excellent.

And I speak as one who has a number of relatives in or retired from the public sector.

And thank you-I have an excellent portfolio of investments and real estate. Made possible from taking risk in Silicon Valley over many years. And a few of the companies I was with did not succeed, and the years with them were largely a waste except for learning what not to do. But I will be damned if I am going to be used the rest of my life as an ATM machine for public employees making 15% to 50% or more than corresponding private sector jobs, and with little risk of losing that job unless caught in a felony or a politically inexpedient act.

Posted by Ned, a resident of Downtown North
on May 27, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Mr Ironic, I grew up on the street of NYC, nothing in Palo Alto would compare. I am where I am through education and hard work.

And yes, I too, thank my education for the opportunities it has given me. But don't compare police jobs to teacher jobs.

I hate to see that you are stereotyping police officers. Most police officers have the same, if not higher, education than both you and I (most now have a bachelors degree and/or higher).

I have seen many people with higher educations, who do not have the honesty, values, and the will to do good. I don't believe education teaches this.

Posted by Ned, a resident of Downtown North
on May 27, 2009 at 5:46 pm

Mike, show me a comparable job to a firefighter running into a burning house to rescue human life. Show me a comparable job to a police officer putting his life in harms way to save a citizen or having to make the unfortunate decision to take someone else life.

Police and firefighters, just like teachers are honorable professions. Nobody goes into these jobs to get rich, like the private sector. People go into those jobs to help, protect, and teach others, unlike the private sector, where people are there to help themselves.

I never said that you get superior workers in the public sector. They have the same bell curve as the private sector, when it comes to competency. And I too, have family and friends in the public sector (including teachers).

Posted by resident, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 27, 2009 at 6:21 pm

Comparing salaries of police/firefighters to other cities is like comparing CEO salaries --- just because they are similar does not mean they aren't excessive. When a police sargeant is making $160K+ annually and receives full retirement at age 50, I'm sorry, but that is excessive. Do I support our public servants? Absolutely! Do I believe they should be compensated well? Absolutely! Being able to retire at 50 with 80-100% compensation paid by taxpayers, while they pursue a second career is excessive. Excessive compensation shouldn't happen in the public or the private sector.

Posted by Ned, a resident of Downtown North
on May 27, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Resident: I hope this will clear up the pension scale.

Officers earn anywhere between 2.5-3% for every year of service (up to 30 yeas) and can retire as early as 50-55 years of age. These numbers vary depending on the agency.

Hence, an officer can NEVER make 100%.

Best case scenario: an officer earns a 90% pension by working anywhere between 30 and 36 years. Most officers will not earn a 90% pension.

I hope this clears things up and people won't be thinking that ALL officers will be getting a 90% pension at 50 years of age.

And if they are eligible for 90%, that means they have put in 30+ years of service protecting the citizens of this City. Much kudos.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2009 at 6:35 pm

We should replace many of these PAPD jobs with private bonded security guards.
Keep the serious crime detectives, outsource the rest, we will increase productivity, public satisfaction and lower the costs dramatically.

Posted by scared, a resident of Downtown North
on May 27, 2009 at 6:43 pm

I would not want some minimum-waged security guard (no offense) to protect me and my family. And I HIGHLY doubt the public will be satisfied. Remember, you get what you pay for.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Then pay the security guards market rates,with no pension.
Some competition is good, keeps people on their toes and productive.
I would certainly feel safer with some fit, fearless, ex Marine patrolling our streets.He / she could then replace some under performing PAPD cop and join the force after the academy.
If we fired the bottom 20% of cops each year we would get real protection and alertness.
Thats what they do at GE.

Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 27, 2009 at 7:42 pm

To Sharon,

You have no clue on what a Police officer does.
Why do people who know nothing about what they write or talk about,
act like they do? Does it make you feel important?

Posted by Ned, a resident of Downtown North
on May 27, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Sharon: what makes you think there are no fit, fearless, ex-Marines in the department now? How about you do your research before posting.

FYI, I have met many fine ex-military officers in the department.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2009 at 8:25 pm

We live in difficult economic times, we all have to cut the fat and think out of the box to increase productivity and think outside of the box.
To Tim "You have no clue on what a Police officer does."

Well. we need a good analysis of what they do and how what they do that adds value to their mission to protect and serve, and an operational definition of what that means.
Bring in a company like McKinsey to do a ruthless analysis of cost versus value.
Many cops are basically overpaid social workers with guns, how much of their time to they spend filling out forms vs catching and scaring thugs?
The whole thing needs a close look, my estimate is that with some objective analysis we can cut 50% of the manpower.
We need to adopt best practices from companies like GE and get rid of the under performers, 10 to 20% per year.

To Ned- there are no doubt some great ex military in PAPD, we need more as contractors on a path to permanent positions to replace the under performers.
We need more accountability, PAPD is grossly overpaid, we can no longer afford this boondoggle, they need a wake up call, accountability to some outside performance metrics and some competition from outside contractors for most of their activities.
The world has changed, PAPD is living in the world of GM in the 70s
They need the application of management science and economic analysis.

Posted by Perspective, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2009 at 5:31 am

I came on here only to commend the vote of the PAPD. I think it was a wise and mature action, ..I wonder if any other unions across this state..heck nation..will notice that, in fact, we are hurtin' and everyone on the tax dollar is going to have to give up raises..even probably give up some pay, before this is done.

Too many of us taxpayers are dropping down, or completely off, the taxpaying scale ( this is what happens every time our nation demonizes the "rich" and believes that a government can "redistribute the wealth"..the wealth goes bye-bye, the coffers dry up, the poorer people get hit the hardest)

Our Fed coffers are down 34% over a year ago, I noted in yesterday's news. Our California coffers are down at least that much. This was an absolute given, given the geopolitical winds of "change" that were blowing across our land.

Of course, excuse me for stating the obvious, but our coffers both at the State and the Fed level brought in more than in our entire history back in 2005, 2006, 2007. WE had more money at all levels than we knew what to do with, but as usual we voted for ever more spending here in California ( remember the election a couple years ago when we could have actually chosen to save our "excesses" for a rainy day, but voted to go ahead and spend it then rather than have our "schools, prisons, social services, lose money", ie, not get more?) Our Fed govt Congress never met an increase in expenditure they didn't like either, so the more that came in, the more programs they created to spend it on, rather than saving the "extra" for a rainly day..or even giving it back to the taxpayers!

Vote buying eventually gets it so that we run out of OPM, and that is what we are doing.

Live and learn. Not the first time we have to learn this in our nation.

I have been reading economic history books. Amazing. We did this every 20 years or so back in the 1800s re: railroads and the like, where we believed that government could do better than private, and bankrupted the coffers of the "govt" railways while the private ones did just fine. And the taxpayers said "no bail outs" of the public trains, while the private trains ran a profit. Then we started trying this "anti-capitalist" "Anti-business" "unfair that there are richer people" rhetoric, and put into place fed taxes ..almost exactly 100 years ago. Since then we have cycled through more taxes ( and less coffers, less economic growth, higher unemployment) and fewer taxes ( with more money in the coffers, less unemployment in the private sector). And, conincidetally, every single time the tax cuts on "the rich" happen, the share that the "rich" pay into the coffers doubles, and share that everyone else pays goes down by roughly 30%.

Until this year, the top 10% paid well over 60% of all the Fed taxes. The top 25% paid over 85% of the budget. Hmmm.. Not going to happen now. Govt intervention lit the Community Reinvestment match, which lit the mortgage meltdown, fanned by election year rhetoric and hype, fanned by knee-jerk "save them" with taxpayer dollars and more govt control reactions, which scared the producers, the businesses, the wealth makers, into scurrying away, not wanting to risk any more of their money and energy on a nation which was on a witch hunt.

We seem to have to learn this basic lesson by paying a strong price and destroying millions of hard working lives about every 30 years, don't we? When will our history books teach the real lessons of our history so that our students will grow up and vote smarter? Instead, I see that historians blithely ignore the real economic lessons of our history, and insist on drawing completely false conclusions for unsuspecting minds about causes and cures for the stock market crash which led to a recession which led to a depression..all preventable. Or the recession and subsequent malaise of the 70s, and what fixed it.

I am sure the history books will be written in a way that continues to promote the myth that a "lack of govt regulation" caused this recent meltdown, and "more govt control" saved the people. I now understand how sickened my cousins' great grandfather was and refused to speak of Hoover or FDR. He always said that the wrong problem was adddressed, with the wrong solutions, all politically motivated. He spoke of Smoot-Hawkley being tthe "match" then, like our CRA was the match then.

Well, rambling thoughts early in the morning.

Accepting gradually that our human nature seems to not be as intelligent as I had always thought. We are easily led by the nose to false conclusions by clever wording, twisting facts, to even, sometimes, wholesale lies. They make us feel self-rightous and good, and we simply can't believe the truth staring us in the eye, because our heros aren't the ones telling it to us.

Ahh...early morning reflections.

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of another community
on May 28, 2009 at 7:27 am

Ned said:

"Officers earn anywhere between 2.5-3% for every year of service (up to 30 yeas) and can retire as early as 50-55 years of age. These numbers vary depending on the agency.

Hence, an officer can NEVER make 100%.

Best case scenario: an officer earns a 90% pension by working anywhere between 30 and 36 years. Most officers will not earn a 90% pension."

Well, actually, they can get pretty close. What Ned is failing to take into account that PA City employees's pensions are based soley on their single highest year of salary. (Unlike Social Security which is based upon an average of a person's entire career.) On top of that, during a City employee's final year of salary, their salary is spiked by some where between 6% and 9% to add in the value of the contribution that the City normally pays into the retirement system on the employee's behalf. Also, during an employee's final year, they are often given the opportunity to fill in a higher capacity to futher spike their salary. So the maximum is not not really 90%, it is closer to 98% (90% pension maximum times spiked salary of over 109%).

Not too bad, huh? But I'm sure everyone else's 401(k) is doing just as well for them. Oh, wait a minute....

I am not trying to say that City employees are not hard workers or that they do not deserve fair benefits and retirement. But there comes a point in which all these perks and retirment enhancements that were put into place during the boom years need to be evaluated. Let's face it. They City can not afford them any longer. Simply agreeing to postpone a raise during a recession is nowhere near good enough.

Posted by The Real Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2009 at 8:03 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Ada, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2009 at 10:52 am

Wow, I did not know police officers in PA make so much! Engineers in hi-tech make less and they are not getting guaranteed raises.
A 6% raise in current environment should be out of question.

Posted by Norm, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2009 at 11:09 am

And Ada, engineers in hi-tech don't risk their lives doing their job either. Also remember the basis for this news story. The police department union voted to defer their 6% raise, which was part of their contract, to help with the city budget crisis. The work they do is honarable, and one that very few of us are willing or even qualified to do. The choice they made to defer their pay increase is equally honorable.

Posted by chris, a resident of University South
on May 28, 2009 at 2:15 pm

The point is not whether police and fire officers risk their lives.
The point is that in this environment salaries can be lowered and there will not be a shortage of qualified applicants for any job openings.

Some of the people on this board seem to have been sheltered from the fact that virtually everybody is having to take a cut. If you think you are not, you are either extremely lucky or extremely deluded. The Chinese are not going to finance your profligacy.

Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2009 at 2:28 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Fillmore, a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Chris, the PAPD deferred their salary increase, out of respect to the city financial and budget crisis. They chose to make this move, and not increase their salary which they had every right to accept based on their contract. And I disagree with your notion of qualified candidates being available for public safety jobs, and the risk of life they accept has everything to do with it. Very few of us are qualified, willing, and possess the skills that a police officer and firefighter are required to possess. I respect the job these men and women do, and respect the decision they collectively made not to increase their salaries during these tough financial times. In my opinion they're worth every penny.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Quite a few posters are claiming that police work is a high risk occupation, do you have any evidence?

Fatal occupational injury rates in 2002 were highest in mining (23.5 per 100,000 workers),
agriculture, forestry, and fishing (22.7),
construction (12.2),
and transportation and public utilities (11.3).
The rate for all private industry was 4.2 per 100,000 workers.

If pay is to be commiserate with risk then miners should be paid the highest.

Posted by The Real Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2009 at 3:06 pm

There goes Sharon again. I remember after the killing of 4 police in Oakland she was singing the praises of the police.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Pat, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 28, 2009 at 3:09 pm

All this theorizing about what police officers deserve, what they 'should' be paid and etc. is pretty much irrelevant.

The is a market price of sorts that we need to pay to get police officers. We cannot pay less than this amount or we won't hire any, and we should not be bullied into paying more by the police union. (On the evidence, it would appear that the latter might be the case...)

No matter how dangerous the job is (or is not), we should pay what the market for police officers required. If we can't hire enough, that's a sign we're not paying enough. If we have a big line of job-seekers, then we're paying too much. (There was a story in the papers describing thousands of applicants for 30 or so Oakland Firefighter positions recently. One would presume the job pays more than is necessary to fill it.)

One of the most dangerous jobs in the US is convenience store clerk in urban stores. And yet these guys have near minimum-wage pay. Office workers generally have pretty safe jobs, and their pay ranges all over the place depending on what they do. If we let the market set the wages, we really don't have to make individual assessments of things like job conditions, etc.

Similarly, there is nothing inconsistent in praising the great job police officers do and arguing that they should be making less than they are if they're getting above-market wages. How far would those making this argument above go in the matter? If they deserve $160,000/year based on this argument, why not $260,000/year or $2,600,000 per year?

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2009 at 3:21 pm

I have great respect for most police officers as I have great respect for most physicians.

Costs have got out of control in both the law enforcement and health care industries.

In these very difficult economic times both industries need to be reformed to increase productivity and cut costs.It is in all our best interests.

There was an incident last weekend with the MVPD where an officer left his keys in his patrol car and someone stole it.
This required overtime for the MVPD, helicopters from the SJPD.
How much did that negligence cost tax payer? $100,000 or more possibly.

A rational look at salaries, policies and procedures etc is the way we improve businesses performance.
The same approach should be applied to the law enforcement and health care industries.

Posted by ned, a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Funny how the story doesn't mention the actual salaries of the police officers. An average or median would help the reader understand whether these guys are underpaid or overpaid. Guess that's why the Daily Post exists.

Posted by The Real Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2009 at 3:28 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Here is a link analyzing work related injuries by occupation, police officers come towards the bottom of the listWeb Link

Obviously this is an emotional issue for some posters.

However decisions are best made through evidence and logic.

Rational people agree about that

Posted by Les, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 28, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Sharon I am quite sure that you would be incapable, unwilling, and lack the fortitude to take on the task of the police officer's job, which you suggest isn't that dangerous. Always the people that know the least about what they're talking about seem to be the most critical.

Posted by Sharonski, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Hey Sharon, call a miner, a fisherman, a utility worker, or an agricultural worker the next time say, someone hacks another person with a cleaver. Or kidnaps and rapes a high school student. Or is robbing people at gunpoint. Many occupations have dangers, no doubt. But police and fire personnel deal with the unpredictable human condition every day, often diluted with drug and alcohol abuse, career criminals, and violence. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2009 at 4:23 pm

In terms of risk and salaries combat troops are grossly underpaid by any criteria.

Now we have settled, with evidence, that law enforcement is not a particularly dangerous occupation we need another, less emotional, approach to salaries.

I suggested earlier that we could consider actively recruiting ex marine and other elite combat troops to join the force in some capacity, security guards leading to the academy and then officer status.
For the sharp edge encounters we need fit, brave, trained young men and women.
We also need smart detectives, we could recruit from MPs or military intelligence.

A great deal of police work is administrative and social work like activities. We could consider outsourcing these jobs.

Overall we need focused performance criteria and the ability to get rid of under performers which the union blocks.

Going back to my example of the negligent MVPD officer,
the MVPD will not name him and said that no disciplinary action will be taken.
That would not be the case in the military, nor in industry.
It is time for fresh look, fresh ideas and big changes.

Posted by Firefighter, a resident of another community
on May 28, 2009 at 6:51 pm


You are so out of touch. Many of our Police Officers and Firefighters are from the military. I guess this fact kind of blows your theory out of the water. Time to think of another fresh idea or big change.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2009 at 7:07 pm

OK, presuming you are not the dreaded "Fireman" poster.

Give us the statistics to back up your claim.
This discussion is about evidence and logic and how to up the ROI on our tax dollars invested in the PADP

Evidence please? Thank you

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2009 at 8:21 pm

I made a typo on the previous post I meant PAPD not PADP
I believe these issues need serious rational dialog

Semper Fidelis

Posted by annoyed, a resident of another community
on May 28, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Well it's been awhile since I have posted but listening to the rantings of Sharon it sounds like fireman took a writing/spelling class. Sharon, you seem to think that anyone can do the job of policeman. Why don't you apply. Let's see you run in while others run out. Let's see you go in my back yard at three oclock in the morning where there may be someone waiting to harm you. Let's see you stop the suspect for a minor traffic accident and he comes out shooting. You are a mis-informed want to know it all and are using this forum to spout off your rantings.

The police Officer's didn't have to give up the money but they did for the good of the city they work for.

People like you annoy me.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2009 at 9:05 pm

We can make the PAPD more productive and effective if we have an honest dialog about their failures.
My point is they cost a great deal of our money, what is the ROI?
I believe it can be improved with simple measures that have been adopted by business and the armed forces.
In these times they need to be accountable for their performance and value add as everyone else is.
How do they spend their time? are there less expensive alternatives, we believe there are.

The best and brightest of PAPD must have good ideas for boosting productivity, my experience is that unions stifle this open dialog, this forum is their chance, if they use a private computer, let us get it out and make things better.

Posted by bru, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2009 at 9:09 pm

bru is a registered user.

Sorry, 6% when their pay is adequate now is excessive.
I appreciate the police as much as anyone, but blindly handing out money while waving the flag is really insulting to the thought that needs to go into managing a city budget.

I do agree that the management part of the city government is nothing spectacular, adequate or mediocre, I think it is sub-par and borderline incompetent - the balancing factor being how hard it must be to get anything done in a city with so many big egos and powerful people.

Money overrides good governence and almost every level of the world now when we need competence and reason above all. How do we move there is a mystery to me, but I think we can keep the great police force without expecting all they think or care about is money.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 29, 2009 at 10:46 am

The average salary for a police officer in the US as of May 29 2009

is $42,000 Web Link

How do PAPD compare?

Posted by Mann, a resident of Professorville
on May 29, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Depending on where someone lives and works in the United States will dictate living costs and salaries. So Sharon, to be unbiased, tell us what the average police officer's salary is in the Bay Area? According to an earlier news story, the PAPD salary and benefits are in the mid-range if not lower half of comparable police departments. If possible, be at least a little fair and objective.

Posted by Pat, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 29, 2009 at 4:36 pm

You guys should give Sharon a break. She's adding a lot to the discussion, even if you don't agree with her. She's among the few who have added actual data to the discussion instead of trying to argue by emotion and bluster.

It's legitimate to ask if we're paying more than we have to for police services (and other municipal services) especially in these lean times. I don't know if we could get police to work for less than they're paid here (even if it is mid-range as Mann suggests). But Sharon's data and argument are at least worth addressing seriously. She makes some good points.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 29, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Of course you may have to make some adjustments for this area, a housing subsidy perhaps.
$42K is more than non coms in the elite forces make.

A lot of these elite, trained, brave and self disciplined warriors are coming on line after their rotations.
They could keep their reserve status in the forces.
They will certainly bring a whole new culture of high performance, commitment and accountability to the PAPD.
In terms of racial relation, the military is light years ahead.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2009 at 10:29 am

Web Link

Page 407 of the 2010/11 City operating budget shows the average salary for members of the Palo Alto Peace Officers Association is $110,254 and average overtime is $17,298. Total compensation including all benefits is $194,201.

Posted by bru, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 30, 2009 at 3:40 pm

bru is a registered user.

Sharon posted:
> The average salary for a police officer in the US as of
> May 29 2009 is $42,000 Web Link

Thank you, you convinced me, if that is indeed the average pay for a officer on the beat and not some average of all the people that might work in the police department in any capacity. Is that the nominal salary or does it take into account overtime and other extra compensations? $42,000 does seem low. On the other hand I think retirement and other benefits are pretty good. I don't know how anyone could live in Palo Alto for that kind of money though.

Posted by bru, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 30, 2009 at 3:51 pm

bru is a registered user.

OK ... the 49K number is what ... from New Orleans or something. That did not seem right ... and Palo Alto Online needs to give people a way to delete their posts when they post bad information.

Thanks to anonymous for posting the actual source. I am back to my original feelings - forget the raises.

$194,000 as an average is pretty high I think with about 127K as takehome pay. There is still room for confusion though. What do beginning officers get, and what does the chief get?

In any case, it is not grossly unfair as 42K would be - freeze the pay hikes!

Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 30, 2009 at 4:27 pm

Sharon wants a Walmart Police Dept. Careful what you wish for. Me- You couldn't pay me enough to be a cop!

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2009 at 8:56 pm

Well, some snobs look down their nose at Walmart and Costco, they want the Whole Foods/Whole Paycheck solution-- dream on

In fact Walmart has very good solutions to the health care and prescription cost inflation, they have a rational approach to these matters.
They use logic, evidence and accountability to the people who count-- the customer.
PAPD is grossly overpaid and under performs,the union stands in the way of reform just as they did at GM and the consequences will be the same.

Many cops know how to make the system more productive, but the union will not let them talk, again.
just like GM

Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on May 30, 2009 at 9:04 pm

We would be fortunate if we had a "Wal-Mart" police force. We might actually have enforcement of law then, not enforcement of political agenda.

Posted by Henry, a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2009 at 10:56 pm


The Palo Alto Police Department was given a 30% raise over the last three years (10% per year). The reason- Officers would get hired and trained by Palo Alto and then leave for another bayarea city because Palo Alto pay was too low.
The other cities were more than happy for Palo Alto to spend it's money for hiring (background checks, physiology tests), training(academy)and then hire the Police Officer with very little money invested. So I guees your theory on "grossly overpaid" for PAPD does not "hold water".
Now that our Police Department has voted (thank you)to delay the 10% this year and a good chance next year, I wonder how many will leave for other cities with better pay and benefits?

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 31, 2009 at 9:04 am


You have drunk the union kool aid

Can you provide evidence for claims,

IE, Numbers of cops hired by other cities,

which cities,
What percentage of PAPD cops live in Palo Alto?

By the way, Palo Alto does non run or pay for a Police academy.

We have to face and adapt to current and projected economic realities.

The economy is very different here than it was in the Dot Com boom

The labor market in Law Enforcement has also completely changed.

The PAPD is overpaid and under performs

Posted by bru, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 31, 2009 at 11:24 am

Whatever their performance, this is not a climate where raises should be given, period. There are many people in the private sector that have not gotten raises in years and have no hope of getting anything for several more.

Another thing, just anecdotal is that I can rarely get in my car and go for a drive in Palo Alto without seeing three or four traffic infractions. I never used to see that. Now I regularly see cars stopped on the wrong side of the road where the driver is talking, a lot of speeding (which doesn't bother me unless it is unsafe, red light running all the time, and people drifting through stop-signs. I wonder if other people notice this compared to the recent past of say the last 10 to 20 years? Is this deliberate?

Anyway, I am against the raise at this time, it sends the wrong message.

Posted by Henry, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 31, 2009 at 1:15 pm


You poor thing. Why do you think the city of Palo Alto bought a advertisement on a billboard (on Highway 101) looking for Police Officers about 4 years ago. Cost was about $16,000. The story made the newspaper. Couldn't keep cops because of the low pay. Less than five Palo Alto Officers live in Palo Alto. Oh, you better believe the city pays for their academy! All cities do.
It is all public record.
Instead of making up what you would like to see in print, go down to city hall and do some research- wait, that would take too much effort on your part.
I will not response to anymore of your nonsense- good day.

Posted by Maiken, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Bru, if you read the original story, there will be no pay raise for the PAPD. Reason why? The PAPD officers voted to defer the pay raise, for all the right reasons. I give them the highest praise for making this move. In the news this week, the San Mateo Co. Sheriff's Department association voted against deferring there pay raise for the coming year. All the more reason to recognize and respect what our police and fire depts. have chosen to do during this difficult financial times.

Posted by bru, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 31, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Hey Malken, yeah, one can glean that much from the title of the article, I think the debate was whether it was fair or not. Someone posted a link which claimed that our police were grossly underpaid, which hey weren't.

Personally, almost 200K average for a police officer/employee seems excessive, whether they live in Palo Alto or not so I think "defer" in an interesting choice of words in that title.

Posted by Malken, a resident of Midtown
on May 31, 2009 at 5:27 pm

It's seems excessive, because it's not true. The average salary for an officer in PAPD, even with overtime, is roughly half of your 200K estimate. Get your facts straight please. Also, the PAPD salaries are roughly mid-range for comparable city departments in the Bay Area. Sharon brings up some great points, municipalities will have to tighten budgets which will undoubtedly slow down future pay increases. However, the fact that the PAPD chose to defer, or pass, or hold-off on their negotiated, contractual pay raise is admirable.

Posted by Old Palo Alto, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2009 at 1:04 pm

What does comparable mean? Does an inner city Chicago cop get paid 500k per year? As I would see the work would be at least 5x as tough.

Posted by Fanettos, a resident of Woodside
on Jun 1, 2009 at 3:11 pm

I think comparable in terms of what other police agencies pay in the bay area, and true, the PAPD has traditionally been paid at or below the average in our region. I agree, they should be commended for voluntarily holding off on the pay raise they had coming and saving the city $800,000. The sheriff's dept. in our county voted against deferring their pay raise. I applaud the PAPD union for stepping up and doing the right thing.

Posted by Fanettos, a resident of Woodside
on Jun 1, 2009 at 3:16 pm

And my understanding is the comparison, including what is used during contract negotiations, is the police department and city negotiators used comparable, benchmark cities to set average standards. The cities are comparable in terms of region, population, demographics, size of the police department, activity, etc. So no, Chicago would not be used.

Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 1, 2009 at 5:08 pm


Great points on how cities negociate with unions on salary and benefits.
Someone did alittle homework.

Posted by bruce, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 1, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Posted earlier:
> Page 407 of the 2010/11 City operating budget shows the
> average salary for members of the Palo Alto Peace Officers
> Association is $110,254 and average overtime is $17,298.
> Total compensation including all benefits is $194,201.

So, take home w/ OT for the AVERAGE Police Officer is cited as
about $127,000.00, which is hardly half of 200K which is the
average numbers inclusive of benefits. That would still be
low for someone who wanted to live in Palo Alto, but that is
again AVERAGE, it does not say what the high and the low are.

I am not sure I think holding off on pay raised is "admirable".
That's a nice word but a lot of people in private industry
jobs have not been getting raises for years now. I am not
attack the police, I think they do a good job for the most
part, but it's difficult to judge.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2009 at 8:19 pm

Web Link

The US Census Bureau reports that the median 2007 household income in Palo Alto is $119,046. That means half the households have more income and half the households have less income. The mean (average) household income is $158,855.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2009 at 9:13 pm

You are correct....Walmart does have a good solution to provide healthcare for their employees- they give them classes on how to apply for state benefits because they are so poorly paid!

Posted by Bruce, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 1, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Hey Anonymous, interesting facts. So what is your take on the salary of an average police officer and its relation to the mean/median of the salaries in Palo Alto?

It is below average for a "household", but it is above the median. Whatever, to me it does not seem far out of line, but just on that data it is hard to justify a raise or criticism. For me it is the times. I think all government jobs should be frozen. I also think we should have some limit on corporate officer's salaries though too.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Call the Police Chief and Fire Chief and ask how many potential recruits targeted for hiring flunk the background investigation. You will be amazed.

Posted by Local, a resident of Stanford
on Dec 8, 2009 at 3:50 pm

Some very interesting points brought up here that I thought I'd address. Someone mentioned the average salary of a police officer in the US at $48,000. With the average home price in the US being $180K and the average home price in Palo Alto being about 1.4M, then Palo Alto Officers should be making about $373,000 if you want to compare them to the rest of the country.

Very good point about comparing agencies in the area to try to determine a fair salary for officers. You get what you pay for. If you pay near the top, you'll get the best quality employees, just as in any profession. If you expect the best service, you'll need to pay for it. Officers in this area get paid higher than in other areas, because it's so expensive to live here. If you want the officers in your community to get an average salary for the area, then expect average service.

A big misconception about police work lately is that it is not dangerous. What's the definition of dangerous in your opinion? Does a profession with such high stress that employees have one of the highest suicide and divorce rates in the country mean anything? (Suicide rate of police officer is about 60% higher than average person. Divorce rate is 60-80%.)

How about a profession where you die 15-19 years before the average person? Is that considered a dangerous profession? How much would you want to make in your salary to give up 19 years of your life expectancy? (Average life expectency in US is 77.7 years. Average life of police officer is currently 58.)

Good point about when times are booming, public sector employees' salaries are not. They are steady and consistent. That's the trade-off. When times are great, there isn't much complaint about public sector employees' salaries. But, oh boy when times are tough, people are all over the issue.

Another interesting point not often mentioned is that out of about 100 police applicants, only 1 to 3 can make it through the arduous process to get hired. And then, even less make it through the academy and field training. So, 99% of the people who complain about police officers' salaries statistically would never be capable of being one themselves. How many private sector positions have a written exam, physical agility test, oral board, polygraph, psychological, in-depth background, another oral, medical, followed by about 9 months of full time training?

There is virtually no profession more scrutinized than law enforcement. It costs the lives and health of thousands of officers every year. Whether you die violently in an instant or slowly over a decreased lifespan, it has the same end result. You've lost time spent with your loved ones. And, when you're working weekends, nights, and on your days off, how much quality time with your family do you really have left anyway? Not all officers want to work overtime. Many are forced against their will. This is time spent away from their families. It's not free money,

PAPD deserved their negotiated and guaranteed pay raise. Their incredible decision to not take it has been met here with complaint. Not sure how that happens, but there are always those people in a community willing to criticize those whose shoes they'd never be willing or able to walk in.

Posted by Not important, a resident of Meadow Park
on Dec 10, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Sadly, I doubt a lot of folks on here run the risk of getting killed everyday when they go to work. If you did, you may feel differently about these so called "lavish" salaries these officer get. Besides all of the valid points about most people not even being able to make the cut to be an officer think of this: Do you kiss your child goodbye before you leave for work and do you think of the possibility you will never come home from work, I wonder? As a child of a cop, as a retired cop and married to a cop I truly believe that no one in the private sector can understand that feeling or grasp that potential of dying while at work every day you work. Reading this right now you may be thinking: yeah right, what are really the chances of getting shot, stabbed or hit by a car on duty... My father and my husband have both been hit by a car while on duty in two different decades in two different cities and luckily they survived. My father was stabbed in the back as a new officer and amazingly survived bearing a horrible scar. I have friends who are now dead due to police work dangers. How many of you have had those types of injuries while at work? I wonder how you would value your own pain and suffering... Police do a job that you don't do and mostly likely could do anyway. They are the ones running into the dangerous situation while everyone else is running away. You may be angry about the little they do make and some who commented mentioned "it is hard to judge" how they do their job but they sure are the first ones you call when you need help.
Besides the potential of death, a serious and permanent injury there is the mental pain to also be considered into the negotiations for salary. Consider this:
Just because Palo Alto feels safe to you, don't kid yourself. Bad people come into PA every day. There are parolees, gang members, people with warrants, people with weapons, drunk drivers, pedophiles, too, everyday driving, working and living in your city. The potential for death is still there in this community just as it is in Chicago. Anytime, anywhere. There is a line in the movie Sea of Love where Pacino (playing a cop) says you look around and you see nothin', I look around and I see everything. We see what you do not, we handle the business you cannot, we look fear in the face while picturing our children and hoping to god we end the situation alive. We have it burned into our minds and hearts forever (which is why the statistics on death and divorce are so high). Most of us are forever HAUNTED by things we have seen that you are protected from seeing. How much death have you seen, smelled or walked in? Tell me if you have cut down a child hanging from a doorknob by a belt? Stood near someone's body lying of the freeway after a collision? Have you had to go into someone's home and tell them their family member is dead? Have you held someone's hand that after they have been horribly crushed in a collision by the side of the road trying to keep them alive until the paramedics get there? Have you dealt with a sick pedophile parked in his car in an affluent area waiting to prey on a child? Have you ever had to fight for your life in a parking lot at night? Those are just a FEW of the horrible things I had to do while I was an officer. We each could tell you a million stories like those. Please, honestly put a price on your own head and on your mind and then get back to me about what you feel you would need to make if you were the cop for the day. It is easy to judge when we do not know the pain.

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