Millbrae Police defend their workBy Heather Murtagh
Millbrae police took issue with the findings of a 12-page report from the California Commission on Police Officer Standards and Training which outlined ways to solve leadership problems by consolidating the department with San Bruno's.
The report, conducted by an outside state agency, found a number of issues in the department like a lack of consistent leadership and large amounts of undocumented patrol time. Police Chief Neil Telford, speaking before the City Council last night, took issue with many of the report's points. Specifically when it came to leadership, Telford explained daily reports are now required and monthly check-in meetings take place to maintain open communication and a collaborative environment.
Not touched upon by comments was the looming possibility of a partnership with San Bruno. A shared services study is currently under way. Without such a move, the report suggested the city hire more staff including full-time chief of police (Telford is currently shared with San Bruno) and command staff.
Making that decision was the main issue in the report.
"A decision needs to be made by you, as soon as you can, if you're going to have your own department or consolidate. If I was an employee here, the not knowing gives you a lot of issues to deal with and that's what I was sensing during the time that I was here," said Gary Leonard, senior consultant in the training delivery bureau with POST.
Councilwoman Gina Papan and Vice Mayor Dan Quigg both expressed regret employees may be worried. Moving forward with anything would include conversations and considerations with those individuals, they said.
In general, the report was met with disagreement from those on the police force who argued the outcomes were tainted by not considering self-initiated activities - such as checking on areas where crimes have occurred, responding to community concerns or working with vehicle codes, said Telford. Noting these activities would mean officers do not have ample free time while on patrol as the report would indicate, he said.
Robert Raw, Millbrae Police Officers Association president, also spoke highly of the quality of work done by Millbrae officers with fewer resources. Raw pointed to a homicide in Millbrae which was resolved in under 24 hours as an example of the work. He invited the council to work more with patrol officers to better understand issues facing the city.
Millbrae's police department has changed drastically over the last 10 years going from 35 sworn positions in 2001 to 20.5 currently, Telford wrote in a staff report.
Increasing staff levels was one suggestion from the report it thought could save the city funds because it would eliminate overtime.
Millbrae spent $300,000 in overtime last year and an estimated $400,000 could be spent in the current year. Scheduling two people - the minimum staffing levels - per shift is the main culprit. If someone is sick or off, a person needs to be paid overtime to fill the position. Hiring a person and scheduling three people instead of two could greatly cut down on overtime costs, the POST study found.
At the same meeting, the council amended the contract with Firefighters Association Local 2400 representing a 4.3 percent decrease in compensation between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011.
Reductions will come by reducing the number of vacation days each employee is eligible for by three days, forfeiting the retiree health savings account contribution, forfeiting pay for two of the 12 holidays and accepting a lower uniform allowance. Last week, the council unanimously approved similar contract agreements with the other city labor unions. The city is estimated to save $460,800 this year because of the agreements.
Copyright ©2010 San Mateo Daily Journal. Published 10/27/2010.