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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: Police Payroll Bankrupts Town

     The city of Desert Hot Springs [California], population 27,000, is slowly edging toward bankruptcy, largely because of police salaries and skyrocketing pension costs, but also because of years of spending and unrealistic revenue estimates. It is mostly the police, though, who have found themselves in the cross hairs recently….

     About $7 million of the city's $10.6 million annual payroll went to the 39-member police force. The situation was so dire that an audit, compiled weeks before municipal elections in November [2013] but not made public until later, showed that Desert Hot Springs was $4 million short for the year and would run out of money as early as April 2014.

     So at a tense meeting, the new City Council voted unanimously to slash all city salaries, including those of the police, by at least 22 percent, as well as to cap incentive pay and reduce paid holidays and vacation days. For some officers who took advantage of overtime and the other extra payments, the cut could be as much as 40 percent, the [police] union says. Management had already taken a hit: the former police chief and one of two top commanders retired this month, not to be replaced.

     Wendell Phillips, a lawyer for the Desert Hot Springs Police Officers Association, quickly filed a fact-finding request with the state's Public Employment Relations Board, calling the cuts illegal and vowing to go to court if they were not overturned. [Police unions help cause the problem, then fight against fixing it.]

Rick Lyman and Mary Williams Walsh, "Police Salaries and Pensions Push California to the Brink," The New York Times, December 27, 2013

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