San Jose plan to add police officers under attack

San Jose police officers.

September 3, 2013 5:49:00 PM PDT
San Jose is working on a plan to put more police officers back on its streets, but it may take higher taxes to help pay for them.

The very city leaders who have been cutting police pay and pensions are now doing an about-face. They want to restore pay and beef up staffing, but it's likely to take $20 million in higher taxes to make it happen.

San Jose has been losing police officers at a rate of about 100 per year for the past three years. Many have been leaving to take higher paying police jobs in other cities after San Jose cut pay and benefits.

But now, San Jose City Council members are trying to reverse that trend with a proposal to fill current vacancies, restore wages by 10 percent or higher within four years and add 141 new officers. The plan is projected to cost $50 million.

Mayor Chuck Reed thinks the city can find $30 million but may need to consider a sales tax to fill the $20 million gap.

"It's one of the few ways that could generate enough revenue to allow us to restore services and restore the pay cuts. So, it's an important piece. Whether or not the public will support it is the big question," said Reed.

Police will get the top priority for spending. However, that's a sensitive issue for some San Jose residents who have seen cutbacks in library hours and reductions in park staffing during lean times.

"Well, it's fine to start, you know, spending more money on it, and there's been some proposals to do that, but I also want my roads paved. I want my libraries open. I want our parks to be in good shape," said San Jose resident Terry Reilly.

The council and city staff is just getting started on researching and analyzing the police proposal. It has already gotten a thumb down from the police officers association still stung by pension reform cuts.

"They're going to take money from us for higher pension costs and then give it back to us in some type of pay restoration. So, they want to take money out of my left pocket and put it in my right and then pat me on the back as if they've done me a favor," said San Jose Police Officers Association President Jim Unland.

Unland says the co-author of the police plan, City Council Member Sam Liccardo is playing politics, eyeing a run for mayor next year.

"When we didn't have money, we cut. And now that we have money, we're focusing those scarce resources on our highest priorities," said Liccardo.

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