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Oro Valley POA, AZCOPS save officers’ jobs

(Updated: May 4, 2009)

The months-long effort by the Oro Valley Police Officers Association and AZCOPS to persuade the Town Council from

AZCOPS President Larry Lopez speaks to the Oro Valley Town Council in opposition to their proposed layoffs of police officers.

AZCOPS President Larry Lopez speaks to the Oro Valley Town Council in opposition to their proposed layoffs of police officers.

cutting police jobs proved successful last week when officials voted to spare the six officer positions and cut back in other areas.
The patrol positions became the target of the Oro Valley Town Council in March when they announced plans to cut some 30 jobs across the departments in an effort to save money.

OVPOA and AZCOPS President Larry Lopez addressed the Council in March and warned that the move would put the public at risk. The original proposal would have disbanded the Community Action Team, which is responsible for stemming the flow of heroin into the area. Lopez said it wasn’t right to put officers’ jobs on the line while several months earlier the City Manager had accepted a $21,000 pay raise, $12,000 in deferred comp and 500 additional hours of vacation time bringing his salary to about $165,000.

In response to opposition expressed by OVPOA and AZCOPS, the Council voted to approve an alternative plan for cutbacks that avoided layoffs by eliminating five vacant positions and a sixth one that will be vacated by September. Those positions included a dispatcher, a reserve officer, two patrol officers and a part-time records specialist. Other savings were found in the areas of equipment, travel and training and outside professional services.

OVPOA Spokesman Chris Palic said the Association appreciated the Council for accepting the alternative to job losses. But, he will continue to monitor upcoming discussions on the police budget to be sure that officer safety isn’t put at risk by any additional proposed cuts.

(ORIGINAL STORY BELOW, Posted March 30, 2009)

When Oro Valley police officers learned that the Town Council was considering laying off six patrol officers to help them through a budget crunch, Chris DeSoto rallied the Oro Valley Police Officers Association and AZCOPS and the groups began putting public pressure on elected officials.

So far, Oro Valley is the only known municipality in Arizona with plans to cut police patrol positions in response to the current economic crisis. DeSoto, spokesperson for the AZCOPS-affiliated OVPOA, said the Town Council has proposed that 32 city employees be laid off as a result of a $5.2 million budget deficit for the year. Of the 32 employees, six are patrol positions on the Community Action Team. The unit is comprised of plain-clothes officers who primarily track down drug dealers.

Some Council members have suggested that cuts in personnel should be made across the board, that all departments should take a hit and give something up,” DeSoto said. “But the truth is that they have $14.2 million set aside in a rainy-day fund, and spending cuts could be made without cutting personnel.

When OVPOA members attended a Council meeting March 4 to show their opposition to the proposal, Councilman Barry Gillespie said the police department shouldn’t be spared while other departments cut personnel.

Oro Valley, a suburb of Tucson, has 102 sworn police officers or 2.36 offers per 1,000 population.

Gillespie said if the police department didn’t lay off officers, the town would become “a police state. And I don’t want to live in a police state.”

DeSoto said it appeared to POA members that the Councilman believes there are too many police officers in Oro Valley and he didn’t like the fact that there were so many in attendance at the March 4 Town Council meeting.

“Our members were very upset by his statement,” she said. “And since that time, we’ve received overwhelming support from the community who don’t want their police force cut.”

AZCOPS President Larry Lopez, who also serves as president of the Tucson Police Officers Association, attended a Council meeting March 25. He reminded the public that six months ago, Oro Valley Town Manager David Andrews had received a $21,000 pay raise, $12,000 in deferred comp, and 500 additional hours of vacation time bringing his salary to an estimated $165,000. He said it wasn’t right for the Manager to continue to accept a pay raise while officers’ jobs are on the line.

DeSoto said elected officials shouldn’t be talking about cutting patrol positions at a time when crime is on the rise across the area. The Council proposal would disband the six-member Community Action Team, which is resposible for slowing the flow of heroin into Oro Valley. Heroin trafficking has become a significant challenge for police in recent months and the Community Action Team has been especially effective in that area, she said.

DeSoto said the Town Council is split on the proposal to cut officers’ jobs. Another meeting is scheduled April 1 at which time another vote could be taken on the issue. In the meantime, the police department has submitted a counter-proposal to personnel cuts that would reduce department spending by $465,000 sparing officers’ jobs.

“I don’t know whether that will be acceptable to Council members or not. But, with the support of AZCOPS and our members, we will continue to keep the pressure on,” she said.

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