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Tentative Agreement Could Avert Chula Vista Police Cuts

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Aired 1/14/11

A tentative agreement between Chula Vista officials and the city's Police Officers' Association could prevent the layoff of 20 officers from what officials say is an already depleted force.

Chula Vista leaders and representatives of the city’s Police Officers’ Association have reached a tentative agreement that could avert pending officer layoffs, according to an officers’ association announcement.

Members of the officers’ association are expected to vote on the agreement Jan. 20. If a majority of the officers support it, the agreement would then need city council approval.

“The Chula Vista Police Officers’ Association and the City of Chula Vista have really found some common ground here,” said Lt. Phil Collum, director of communications for the officers’ association. “This isn’t a win for anybody, except – hopefully – the community of Chula Vista.”

Not all specifics of the agreement have been made public. One term of the agreement, however, is that officers will join the rest of the city's employees in paying their full pension contributions.

"Within six months, all of our employees and (elected officials) are going to pay their pension investments, and not have the taxpayers pay them," said Mayor Cheryl Cox. Chula Vista will be among the first cities in California to adopt this pension policy, she added.

In December a study funded by the officers’ association suggested Chula Vista officials dip into reserves to avoid the cuts, while the city has suggested the police contribute 9 percent toward their pension plans and agree to pay freezes.

About 20 positions are on the line. Those layoffs were originally scheduled to take place Jan. 7. They were first postponed this week and are now on hold until Jan. 24.

Thirty-two officers received layoff notices in October when the city officials first announced plans to plug a $18.5 million hole in the city budget. Since then the police department has made arrangements with the Chula Vista Elementary School District, the Sweetwater Union High School District and grantmakers to preserve about 10 positions on it’s its own, Collum said.

Obstacles to negotiations over the last four months were reported to include officers’ fears of having cuts forced on them if they agreed to open their contract with the city, and concerns about the attorney negotiating for Chula Vista.

Informal talks between city and police representatives earlier this month opened communication channels and restored trust between the sides, Collum said.

If officers’ association members or the City Council reject the new agreement, the police department will have to reduce investigations, DUI enforcement and patrols in high-crime areas, according to the association’s announcement.

The city’s police force has already been reduced by more than 11 percent to cut costs in the last couple of years, Collum said. There is currently less than one officer per 1,000 residents.

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