We watched The Eureka City meeting and specifically the debate about continuing the Transaction and Use Tax for another five years. If any of you have had to slog your way through a meeting of this particular Council, you know true pain. This agenda item was heavy on propaganda, and short on any realistic assessment.
One part of this discussion really caught our attention. The argument for extending Measure “O” and keeping the police department fully staffed. All of the Council Members talked about how numerous public safety positions were going to be cut in the 2010 budget, without the new tax, all of the Council members except one; Linda Atkins. Although Atkins fully supported extending the tax, she went outside of the talking points and spoke about her fear in 2010 of “freezing” public safety positions. As the Examiner has explained before, “freezing” positions simply mean’s not hiring new employees, as opposed to “cutting” (eliminating positions) or getting rid of current employee’s. This “off the talking points” statement is key to trying to understand what is going on with these funds.
Police Chief Mill’s, after trying to scare everyone with talks of huge cuts to public safety, admitted that the department is severely understaffed already. Mills said the department is currently 6 and soon to be 7 cops down (at another meeting he said down 8). On top of that, he said that dispatch is 40% down in staffing. That’s right, almost the same amount of positions to be frozen haven’t been filled anyway, even with all the money from Measure “O”. That begs the question; why can’t EPD seem to recruit and retain new employees?
The Examiner believes the answer lies with the culture of un-checked corruption misconduct within EPD. As many will remember, Chief Garr Nielsen was hired to root out the corruption and wrong doing at EPD. After some good initial success, Chief Nielsen was first marginalized, and then terminated, after little more than 4 years on the job. He was replaced by Murl Harpham who seemed to support this culture by just looking the other way.
As a result there are still employees in positions of power at EPD who have never had to answer for their misdeeds. The firing of Nielsen sent a chilling message to all the new hires. If cops and dispatchers believe that they could be targeted and discriminated against by their supervisors and harassed by their fellow cops, and that nothing will be done if they make legitimate complaints, they’re not likely to stay.
The culture of EPD isn’t conducive to retaining or finding new hires. Until that culture changes, the city can “budget” all the unfilled positions they want, from extending Measure “O” out forever!
The Examiner asks; what ethical young man or woman looking for a future in Law Enforcement would want to fill any of those positions?