Uploaded: Thu, Oct 4, 2012, 8:07 am
Atherton police association tactics under fire
A number of residents and City Council members are criticizing a pre-election mail and telephone campaign by the Atherton Police Officers Association that they say is spreading false and misleading information to residents.
An APOA flier that reached mailboxes in late summer, warning residents that "you are in danger of losing your Atherton police," prompted Mayor Bill Widmer and Councilman Jim Dobbie to dispute, in a public letter to council colleagues, several key points of the "scaremongering" mailer; the council voted unanimously last month to place discussion of the mailer on the October council agenda.
The APOA, the employee group of the town's police officers and sergeants, also announced in a recorded message left recently on residents' telephones that it has endorsed incumbent Elizabeth Lewis and Cary Wiest for the two open council seats.
The wording of the message, recorded by APOA president and police officer David Metzger, has caused some residents to cry foul, saying that the association implied that the two other candidates -- Greg Conlon and Denise Kupperman -- would support outsourcing police services.
"They don't directly say that we would outsource, but the (implication) is pretty strong," Mr. Conlon said.
The prepared statement delivered by Mr. Metzger said that Atherton police officers "are working hard to maintain the level of service you currently receive, as well as the safety and security of the town of Atherton.
"However, your police department could eventually be outsourced to the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department, depending on the current and future actions of your City Council. With this in mind, (the association is) supporting ... Elizabeth Lewis for re-election and ... Cary Wiest for election."
Although a few residents have publicly advocated outsourcing police services, the idea has proven to be a hot potato, and it appears that a large majority of residents oppose it. Which posed a problem for candidate Kupperman.
"It was of concern" for several residents at an event held last weekend in support of her candidacy, Ms. Kupperman said. She had to explain to those raising questions that she has never advocated outsourcing police services, she added.
When she heard of the phone message, she said, she went to the police station to speak with Mr. Metzger and tell him that his call "includes a misstatement of my position." He responded that "there was no implied message," she said. But the message, she insisted, "was suggestive -- not explicit but implicit."
"That's how I interpret it and how a number of residents interpreted it."
Ms. Kupperman said she wasn't seeking the APOA endorsement, and that the association had a right to endorse whomever it chose to. "But they don't have a right to misrepresent my position," she said.
Mr. Metzger was not available for comment.
Although the APOA traditionally endorses candidates in council races, the double-punch approach this campaign season has made some residents nervous. Mayor Bill Widmer said he has heard from "a number of residents who have said they're afraid to put out signs (for candidates Kupperman or Conlon) for fear there could be retribution."
The association didn't conduct interviews before making endorsements, but sent out a questionnaire to all candidates. Both Ms. Kupperman and Mr. Conlon said their answers in no way suggested that they support outsourcing police services.
"I said I was definitely against it ... unless we're going into bankruptcy," Mr. Conlon said, adding that he made it clear he didn't think bankruptcy is in the town's future.
Incumbent Elizabeth Lewis posted the questionnaire and her responses on her website. "I do not believe Atherton should outsource its police department to the county at this time," she said in response to a question asking if she would "ever consider" such a move.
But she said she prefers to never say never "because life is long and circumstances change."
"If at some future date, the economic conditions of the town are such that there is no other choice but to join forces with other departments to avoid bankruptcy, as an elected official I would have to make that hard fiscal decision considering what would be best for the town's solvency."
Although the APOA flier included no endorsements, its message was dramatic -- and to some, alarming.
After stating that the council "has revealed its intention to severely cut police officer pay and benefits forcing most to look for work elsewhere," the mailer claimed that "the council will most likely outsource policing to another agency."
APOA vice president and police dispatcher John Mattes defended the assertion: If the town significantly reduces benefits, "you're going to have people who are looking to leave."
The town won't be able to find qualified candidates if compensation is inferior to that of other agencies, so the town will be forced to outsource services, he said.
The flier criticized the manner in which parcel tax revenues have been spent -- not enough police department spending, it implied. It also said that the department received a mere 0.2 percent funding increase, "which does not even cover inflation, much less the funds needed for proper staffing in the ... department."
Mayor Widmer said town staff is fact-checking all claims in the flier to give council members accurate information when they discuss the mailer this month. But in the colleagues letter he and Mr. Dobbie issued, they noted that police salary increases were nearly 3.9 percent for officers and about 1 percent for sergeants.
"We believe the mailer is a scaremongering attempt with misrepresented data by the APOA to attempt to assist in their upcoming contract negotiations (the contract expires next year) and to sway voters to support 'their' candidates," they wrote. "We believe the residents need to know the facts."
Mr. Widmer said in an interview that the flier "talks all about trust. But trust goes both ways. I don't think they should be putting words in people's mouths and leading people to believe that their safety is jeopardized."
Personally, he said, he values "the work that the police department does here. There's no question in my mind about their integrity and trustworthiness, etc. My comments are with regards to these tactics."
Posted by A Look Back
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 4, 2012 at 11:16 am
Uploaded: Wednesday, November 24, 2010, 7:16 AM
Atherton residents get nervous over outsourcing
by Renee Batti
In what could be a sign of things to come if Atherton's elected officials decide to outsource police services, a number of Atherton residents attended an early morning meeting of the City Council and town's Finance Committee on Nov. 18 to hear a presentation on another city's experiences in turning over police operations to the county Sheriff's Office.
In spite of the 8 a.m. start time, about 15 residents attended the session, Councilman Jerry Carlson estimated. A number of them spoke, he said, and to his recollection, they all were against farming out police services.
The council has not actively explored outsourcing police services, but it has been struggling to find ways to fix the town budget's $1 million structural deficit, and had directed the Finance Committee to look at options that include outsourcing a number of town services.
The committee had scheduled a presentation by Jeff Maltbie, interim city manager of San Carlos, who was to talk about his city's outsourcing of police services to the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office. When Councilman Carlson learned of the presentation, scheduled for the committee's Nov. 18 meeting, he requested that the meeting be held jointly with the City Council, he said.
The meeting's turnout by residents may have been the result, in large part, of an e-mail sent out by former police chief Glenn Nielsen, alerting residents to the meeting and encouraging them to attend, according to people who saw the message.
Councilman Jim Dobbie said the e-mail from Mr. Nielsen "stirred things up. ... It just generated a lot of concern that was totally inappropriate." To the best of his knowledge, he added, "no council member wants to outsource the (police) department. ... We love our police department, but we'd be irresponsible not to look at all options for fixing the financial situation."
Councilman Dobbie said if the council ever decided it wanted to turn over police operations to another agency, he would push for putting the question on the ballot. Bill Widmer, who will take a seat on the council in December, also said voters should be the ultimate decision-makers on outsourcing.
Councilman Carlson said he would want the public to be heavily involved in making a decision of such consequence, but he wasn't certain the question would have to go to a vote. "People need to tell us what services are important to them, and what they're willing to pay for," he said.
Mr. Maltbie's presentation included an overview of San Carlos' move from its own police force to its outsourcing to the Sheriff's Office, a transition that became effective Nov. 1. The process, Mr. Carlson said, included a paring down of services over a number of years in an attempt to reduce costs and retain the department; but after a time, only core services were available and financial problems remained.
Mr. Carlson noted, though, that "San Carlos had a different situation from what we have, at least for now."
Employee costs in Atherton account for nearly 80 percent of the town's budget, with police costs representing just over 50 percent, Councilman Dobbie said. The police department has already been trimmed down to 17 employees, from 22, he said, but costs are still a problem.
The town must "come up with some more revenue or more savings" to restore the town's fiscal health, he added.
Posted by A Look Back
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 5, 2012 at 11:37 am
Peter Carpenter has been advocating police outsourcing for Atherton (and Menlo Park...see his July post below) for a long time. His argument is reduced to just numbers and fails to take into account the different nature of policing in neighboring communities compared with Atherton. Looking at cost per capita he fails to account that Atherton more than doubles in population size when the ten schools located in the town are in session. He also fails to take into account the land area and density of population. A comparable sized town and socio-economic base is Hillsborough and you can see it costs more there per capital than Atherton. It would appear Hillsborough has the same demand for services and has more officers than Atherton.
Anyway the argument can go on and on, and it is appropiate the voters decide as Lack Of Transparency points out by passing the Parcel Tax next year when it comes up for renewal.
To save Peter the time to post his usual figures here is a post he wrote suggesting Menlo Park outsource their police department along with his usual numbers. It appears there is not a bit of interest in doing this in Menlo Park.
Time for Menlo Park to outsource police services
Menlo Park, posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Jul 6, 2012 at 6:17 pm
With the Police Chief's departure It is time to stop the bleeding - Menlo Park should outsource its police services to the Sheriff. This will substantially reduce the total cost, remove any future unfunded pension liability and, increase leadership stability. With the much large force the Sheriff's department can more easily promote leaders from within ensuring community knowledge and avoiding relocation costs.
The change over costs would be quites small. San Carlos went through the process last year:
From The Millbrae Patch -
"Before contracting out services, San Carlos employed 32 sworn officers, and the city spent about $8.9 million per year on its police department. After outsourcing, there are now 19 sworn officers, and its annual costs are about $2 million less.
The Sheriff's Office hired all San Carlos police department employees many of them work in the county jail now. Nine original officers remain patrolling San Carlos.
Although there are fewer officers in San Carlos, the level of service has remained about the same, according to a Sept. 12 City of San Carlos study.
Rothaus said it is because the city does not need to hire extra cops to cover shifts for those sick or on-leave.
The average emergency response time has not changed, and Part 1 crimes, such as rapes, murders, aggravated assault and robbery, have decreased slightly.
The San Carlos Police Department had a better property crime solving rate, while the Sheriff's Office is more effective with violent crimes, according to the study.
Felony arrests increased about 35 percent since the transition, in part due to more regular checks of probationers and parolees conducted by the Sheriff's Office, Rothaus said.
San Carlos conducted two surveys measuring resident's satisfaction with the Sheriff's Office. Out of the 102 surveys completed, citizens were 98 percent satisfied with services. "
The County already operates a county wide dispatch system that serves both the Sheriff and ALL of the fire agencies in the county including MPFPD (which started the county wide fire dispatch consolidation movement) so there would be zero cost of adding MP police dispatch.
Some of the existing MP Police Department space would probably be needed by the Sheriff for a substation but at least part of the existing space would be surplus and hence available for other uses.
And however 'thin' the Sheriff's service may be in the unincorporated areas in the contract areas each contracting city gets to choose its own level of service. Woodside contracts for more officers and pays more, but still far less than Menlo Park. And the same officers are assigned to Woodside on a continuing basis.
Here are the comparative costs:
Agencies which have their own Police Department:
As of the census of 2000, there were
4.9 square miles (12.8 km²)
Police budget $4.9 M
$681 per capita
As of the census of 2008, there were
34.6 sq miles
Police budget $31.7 M
$419 per capita
As of the census of 2000, there were 58,598
23.7 sq miles
Police budget $29M
$494 per capita
As of the census of 2000, there are 28,803
The city has a total area of 19.9 square
miles (51.6 km²), of which 3.8 square miles
(9.7 km²) is land and 16.2 square miles
(41.9 km²) is water.
Police budget $9.6 M
$333 per capita
As of the census of 2000, there were 28,158
The city has a total area of 15.6 km² (6.0 mi²).
11.2 km² (4.3 mi²) of it is land and 4.4 km²
(1.7 mi²) of it (28.19%) is water.
Police budget $9.5M
$337 per capita
As of the census of 2000, there were
The town has a total area of 6.2 square miles
(16.1 km²), all of it land.
Police budget $8M
$739 per capita
The population was 27,693 according to the
6.3 square miles (16.4 km²).
Police dept budget $13.46 M
$485 per capita
As of the census of 2000, there were 30,785
17.4 square miles (45 km2), of which
10.1 square miles (26 km2) is land
and 7.3 square miles (19 km2) is water. Police services budget $14.69 M
$477.148 per capita
East Palo Alto
As of the census of 2009, there were 35,791 people,
2.6 square miles (6.7 km²), of which 2.5 square miles (6.6 km²) are land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.78%) are water.
Police budget $10,262,651
$287 per capita
Agencies which contract out their police services:
The population was 30,318 at the 2007 census.
The city has a total area of 21.1 square miles
Police costs via County Sheriff $4.34 M
$143 per capita
11.8 square miles (30.5 km²)
As of the census of 2000, there were
Police services via County Sheriff $1.3 M
$242 per capita
new contract 2012/13
The Woodside Town Council approved a budget that included ■ Sheriff's contract: A council majority approved a three-year $1.45 million law enforcement contract with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office. Unlike the annual jumps of 10 percent in previous contracts, this one rises by 4 percent for the first year and 3 percent after that.
The population of Woodside is 5287 as of the 2010 census or a cost of $274 per capita.
The population was 4,462 at the 2000 census
9.2 square miles (23.7 km²)
Police services via Sheriff $498,601
$111 per capita
The population was 27.238 in 2008
5.93 square miles
Police services via proposed Sheriff's contract
$248.62 per capita
Arguments against outsourcing? Fear of change.