I know, I know, I owe a post on the new chief business. I'll get to it eventually. It's a little more cumbersome than I first thought.
Anyway, while we're here, a few thoughts (OK, a lot of lengthy thoughts) on yesterday's disappointing disappearing act by the PD at Police Chief Robert DeMoura's swearing-in.
When does this end? When my 4-year-old (5 tomorrow, but you get the point) pouts "It's not fair," we generally laugh or ignore her. But this isn't funny, and it can't be ignored any more. And yes, I'm purposefully comparing the police union to a bunch of 4- and 5-year-olds.
If you didn't hear -- the rumor mill was blazing about this late last week, so it wasn't a big shocker -- police officers took a pass on yesterday's swearing-in. Just the latest in the union's pity party over DeMoura being chosen. At some point, one of two things are going to happen. The union is going to get over it and move on. Or it won't, and the people they work for are going to suffer for it, if they aren't already.
The union has a number of gripes with the city, some valid, some not. In most cases, the gripes focus on how horrible Lisa Wong is, which is mostly not valid. If you need a refresher, skim through the many, many comments on the Police Department from Receivership and others. That should get you up to date. Let's review:
The department needs new cruisers. This is a valid need. The cruiser money has been cut in the last two budgets, and you'd have to think it's not coming this time around. Sadly, the city is in financial straights. It has nothing to do with being anti-police or anti-police union. Can Wong and DeMoura find money for cars in this upcoming budget (with the $5 million hole in it)? I think the union and the officers understand the situation. This is becoming more and more of a priority, but I'm not sure it's going to be taken care of this year, sadly.
The officers desevere a raise. Heck, who doesn't? And yes, the union raise situation is a very messy one. And yes, it's a valid demand in a vacuum, but not in the current economic environment. But you know what, it's not really Wong or DeMoura's fault. And by "not really," I should say, "not their fault at all." It's one of the many messes they inherit. But the union also has to realize that they got hooked up a little bit last year when the dispatchers were let go. Also, the current financial situation creates this potential quandry: Raises, but layoffs. Or, more likely, raises, but even more layoffs. My perception has always been that unions in general prefer raises, even in the face of layoffs. I don't know if that's the case here. But considering the current financial situation, the cries for a raise probably won't go too far with the public. Especially a public that seems to be fighting its own economic hardships. But maybe that's just me. The police union got hosed on raises. But you can't remake the past. You can only deal with the present, and it's not a present that seems very bright-looking on this point. The union is right to complain on this one, but there may not be very much it can do on it, either.
DeMoura is the chief. Completely not valid. Take off "Fitchburg" in Paul Bozicas' resume and "Lowell" in DeMoura's, and replace them with "Smallville" and "Tinytown." Most people would agree that DeMoura was the better candidate. I hate to crank on Bozicas even a little bit, because he's a good guy and would be a good chief, but I'm still waiting for someone from to argue that Bozicas was the better candidate, not just that he's the local guy.
I'm also still waiting for someone to say "We're moving on." Hell, I'd take, "We're disappointed, but we're moving on." At this point, "We're bitterly disappointed and think Wong and DeMoura are Mrs. And Mr. Evil, but we're moving on," would be OK. Yesterday most certainly wasn't that day, apparently. Instead of taking the high road, the union continues to drag this out. I'd love to be a fly on the wall in the PD today, although it will probably be about as uncomfortable as Michael Scott's condo (if you saw last week's "The Office," you know exactly what I'm talking about). Despite the no-show, DeMoura is still showing up for work today.
Here's, now, the question. Up to yesterday, it was OK to write the union's stance off as sour grapes, and maybe the need for a little time to get over and move on. But, clearly, they are not moving on, and probably don't plan on moving on anytime soon.
Which is OK, I guess, but the professional and responsible move would have been to show up. The union, like Wong and DeMoura, work for the taxpayers of the city. We elected Wong, who in doing what she thought was right for the city, picked DeMoura. The union has acted throughout as if the chief works for it, not the city. Now, the union has made its professionalism and responsibility while on the job open to question. After this latest move, how can you automatically assume officers are going to work today with an open mind and a focus on working for citizens, when they clearly have self-created a distraction that they aren't getting over? This is a situation it created over the last few months.
DeMoura has a mandate to make the city safer, but does he have the tools and manpower dedicated to that mandate, or a union that only wants to make him miserable and set him up for failure? It's more than a political question, it's one that gets to the very heart of the safety of the 40,000 people that live in this city. It's sad and unfortunate that the union has forced it to be asked.
Labels: Budget, DeMoura, Police chief, police union, Wong