News - June 1, 2011

Menlo Park freezes pay for its police sergeants

by Sandy Brundage

Menlo Park's eight police sergeants won't see a pay raise for two years under the terms of a new contract unanimously approved by the City Council that also implemented a two-tier pension system.

The previous contract provided an average 3 percent pay raise every six months since January 2009.

Under the new contract, four patrol sergeants will get their annual hours cut by 104, which city staff estimated would save $36,000. Automatic health benefit increases, where the city would pay 85 percent of any increase, also got the ax. Finally, employee pension contributions increased from 9 to 12 percent, with an estimated annual savings to the city of $39,000.

The council praised the police sergeants union for its cooperation. "This required a lot of help," Mayor Rich Cline said at the May 24 council meeting. "We can't do this alone, it's a different economy, and we are well aware of the sacrifices being made by people in different areas of the city."

Vice Mayor Kirsten Keith questioned why the police department, which has 36 line officers, needs eight supervising sergeants along with two commanders. Police Chief Bryan Roberts answered that many factors dictate appropriate staffing levels, such as the number of service calls and types of crime in a community. He said a community like Menlo Park with 32,000 people would generally have about 48 police officers.

As for the eight sergeants, Chief Roberts said each either supervises one of four patrol teams or a specialized unit such as narcotics.

The police department does plan to convert two vacant sworn officer slots to less costly non-sworn community service officer positions, according to the chief, who told the council that the salary differential is $80,000.

For new hires, the police sergeants union agreed to provide pension benefits using a "3 percent at 55" formula based on the average of the highest three years' salary. The staff report noted that as many as six new sergeants may be hired by 2012 as older officers retire, and Chief Roberts indicated the open positions would be "promotional opportunities" for current officers.

According to the police department, all eight of the current sergeants were promoted from within the organization, and have served an average of 18 years in Menlo Park.


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