Tuesday, June 10, 2001
Police Union Files Grievance Over Deployment of Senior Lead Officers
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Police Protective League announced yesterday it has filed a grievance on behalf of all senior lead officers against the city, alleging that “SLOs are not being properly deployed.”
The grievance, filed last Monday, claims the Los Angeles Police Department is violating terms set out in an agreement between the police union and the department to restore the program that designated more than 160 officers as community liaisons.
“Specifically, the agreement requires that SLOs be assigned to primarily perform their community mobilization, community-police problem solving duties,” LAPPL general counsel Hank Hernandez wrote in the grievance. “The League is informed and believes that SLOs are not being properly deployed citywide on this basis.”
The Senior Lead Officer Program was deemed by then-Police Chief Willie Williams to be a key part of community policing—a reorientation of officers in the wake of the beating of motorist Rodney King in 1991. The program designated officers to work full-time with Neighborhood Watch Groups, homeowner associations, and merchants.
Divided into different geographic areas, community members work with their own senior lead officer to deal with crime issues in their area, ranging from drug dealing on a particular corner to graffiti abatement.
The program came to a halt in 1999 when Police Chief Bernard Parks redeployed the officers to other assignments.
Since then there have been several unsuccessful attempts to re-instate the program to its form under Williams.
The latest attempt is the agreement, negotiated by the LAPD, the LAPPL, the Police Commission, City Council and then-Mayor Richard Riordan, which was supposed to allow SLOs to perform their community senior lead officer duties four days a week and be on patrol one day a week instead of requiring a five-day-a-week SLO, Councilman and former LAPPL director Dennis Zine said.
A status report submitted to the Police Commission by Police Chief Bernard Parks on May 31 found that three police divisions, Harbor, Pacific, and Newton, were not in compliance with the agreement, prompting the police union to file the grievance, Hernandez said.
“I find it very sad and distressing that police management is not supportive of the will of the community,” Zine said. “This is not some military system where you make your own rules. They [the police department] need to follow the directions they’re given.”
Zine said that the grievance is just another example of how people are losing faith in the police department.
“The public is going to get upset and walk away,” Zine said, alluding to discussion of succession. “You can’t ignore the will of the people without consequences.”
The grievance also alleges Police Department management has reported to the Police Commission that the proposed and actual deployment of SLOs throughout the department did not deviate significantly from the agreement requirements.
“The department claims that a lack of deployment is because the officers themselves are not available due to illness and vacation,” Hernandez said. “We want to challenge that.”
Councilman Nick Pacheco, an ardent supporter of the SLO program, said filing the grievance was premature because it did not give newly elected Mayor Jim Hahn a chance to review the situation.
“I agree with the basic notion of the SLO program,” Pacheco said. “I think it’s really too soon. Other doors could have been tried before this was filed.”
Pacheco also said there was more to the grievance than just a complaint of a broken promise and that people need to look what is behind the grievance.
“What’s really behind the class-action is a paper trail that takes the position that the police chief should not get a contract extension when it comes up,” Pacheco said. “This is their way of documenting performance or lack thereof.”
Parks’ term expires next fall, and he is expected to ask for a second five-year term.
Pacheco said that he is in favor of a full return to the original SLO program, but that it needs to operate alongside the implementation of the “3-12” program.
The controversial “3-12” program would give patrol officers a three-day, 12-hour shift work week instead of the traditional five-day, eight-hour work week.
“They really need to work hand-in-hand with each other,” Pacheco said of the two programs. “At the end of the day, the most important thing is to reassure the community that they are getting both the patrol officers they need and a crime prevention tool.”
The police department has 20 days from the date the grievance was filed to respond to the police union with its position.
The LAPPL’s legal counsel will then assess the position and decide whether or not to take the matter to the Police Commission, Hernandez said.
If the matter is not resolved, it could end up before an arbitrator, in which case the arbitrator’s decision would be binding, Hernandez said.
Zine said he will investigate the matter further and could possibly bring it up before the council.
Under the city charter, the City Council does not have any specific power regarding police policy, but it can make recommendations to the mayor, Pacheco said.
Police Department officials declined comment after repeated requests.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company