We are all painfully aware of the financial crisis looming over federal, state, and municipal governments and hear of the furloughs, layoffs, and other sacrifices being made by public and private sector employees across the country. What I have never heard, however, is what the Santa Barbara police and fire departments are doing to help carry the weight.

I have read about police departments around the USA that have dropped overtime pay and just get the regular $75 an hour they would normally earn without adding 50 percent on the top for overtime. Many others have started to contribute to the benefits packages which are unrivaled by other public and most private sector employees. (Do our police and fire officials contribute to their benefit package?)

Needless to say, many ways can be explored to enable uniformed personnel to truly “protect and serve” so that the slogan is not merely paint on a car door. If there was ever a time for them to serve it is now, and if not now they pretty much lend the lie to slogan they are so proud of promoting, and that as citizens we have always believed to be true.

I understand that the endorsement of police and fire is very important to elected officials. However, when they (police and fire) are so entrenched that they call the shots (pun intended) the tail is wagging the dog. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated, “In times this tough we all need to get a haircut. There can be no sacred cows.” Sometimes we all forget that the largest and most powerful lobbying group in the USA remain the people. Granted, getting them to organize is like herding cats, but when they finally get it together they are a force like no other.

I submit to you that if 10 percent of the uniformed police officers in our community were given 90 days off, our crime rate would not increase significantly if at all during that time (unless, of course, they orchestrated the data). After all, this is not South Chicago, Detroit, or Los Angeles. Our uniformed officers do a fine job, but it is time they realize they are but one spoke in the wheel. I think people are tired of being intimidated with veiled threats of escalating crime if they don’t always get their way.

In closing, let me say that the fellow I see on TV and in the press is a guy named Mike McGrew—and if you let these folks control the budget process for the council you won’t be negotiating a budget. Rather, you’ll be getting McScrewed, and your constituents deserve far better.—Bill Garlock, S.B.


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