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I really like the trash guys. Every Monday, rain or shine, my trash becomes his trash. Not a lot of drama. And, amazingly, no excuses. What’s not to like?

And, I like the sewer and water folks. Not the ones on the phone. I like the ones out on the streets. The ones with the big machines digging, sweating, you know.

I like the fire department, especially the folks on the trucks.

Safety department brass are, well, a mixed bag, especially the ones in pensions or politics.

But, mostly, I like the Po-leeze.

You may have heard there is a “morale” problem in the police department. I think I may have figured that out.

No group of workers has worked so hard, so long, and been so thoroughly jammed by the idiocy of the past half-decade. Other than the new BMW motorcycles, the only new shafts in the city have been delivered to the rank-and-file police as a group – with a swiftness and regularity that is, well, bracing.

Everyone has “local” officers. You don’t know their names, but you see them through the windows of their cars enough that you “recognize” them after a while. Where I live, they always seem to be working their dogs off. If they stop by the side of a road, they always seem to be in the middle of paperwork or computer stuff or something that makes them look, how shall I say it … pressed.

Did you know that in the late hours there are fewer than two officers on the street for the area from Pacific Beach to Del Mar?

Running for mayor brings with it the blessing of learning lots of city finance and operations stuff that a normal person NEVER wants to know. Gratefully, I have forgotten much of it. But one item I did not forget was the pay of the police.

It is weirder than you can imagine. I’m surprised any of them are still out there.

A schedule published a year ago by the city manager compares the average compensation for officers in the 10 largest cities in California. (Since our PD’s comp has been “frozen” for several years, it has to have gotten worse for our PD compared to other non-frozen departments, so I’ll use the 2005 numbers for demonstration purposes.)

Here’s what it shows.

Police comp has two components; “Monthly Base Salary” (I’ll call this “cash”): and, “ER Monthly Pension Contribution” (I’ll call this “spice.”)

So, if you’re a cop you get some cash and you get some spice.

If you add the cash and spice together, you get the “Total Compensation.”

Among the top 10 California cities, on a “Total Compensation” basis, our folks in blue rank near the top – virtually tied for second behind Santa Ana. (I think that’s fair – I know Santa Ana).

But, here is the screamer. On the cash side alone, San Diego cops were virtually third from the bottom, 23 percent lower than the top.

That teeny cash payment would be OK if they were actually getting the spice portion, but they are not. The city doesn’t pay the spice portion because it does not have the money to pay it. It has not in the past, is not now, and has no ability in the future to pay the spice portion. According to our former city manager, when asked where and when the spice contribution was to be made, he confirmed that no one knew how much, or when, or if the spice payment would be made.

City police salaries have been “frozen” for a couple of years. The city now uses of the teeny Gleason settlement pension contribution, which we all know continues the massive pension underfunding, which means that the spice portion is now also “frozen” into the future. That’s what I’d call TOTALLY FROZEN. You get teeny “frozen” cash and the city never pays the spice.

On a real total compensation basis (i.e. real dollars paid by the city to or on behalf of the police) over the past half decade, Barney Fife of the Mayberry P.D. made more money.

And, while all the rest of the municipal unions actually voted to support allowing the city to not pay the spice portion in the corrupt MP II (what were they thinking?), at least the police rep on the retirement board, Tom Rhodes, voted in opposition. So, it seems particularly unfair to have the police bear the burden of the other union’s ridiculous and unprincipled behavior.

Word to the police. Take a lesson from Santa Ana, Oakland and Anaheim. Get more of your total comp payments in “cash” and make your own “spice” contributions. What with your salary “freeze” and the “frozen” spice payments from the city under Gleason, and “son of Gleason” which you know is coming next, and which will probably go on forever – the Polar cap is likely to melt before your comp entitlements begin to thaw out.

PAT SHEA

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