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Police physically & fiscally protect Manteca

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POSTED June 4, 2009 1:40 a.m.
Let’s face it.

Manteca Police – by the very nature of their job – encounter people who aren’t exactly thrilled to see them. Criminals? They don’t like seeing police officers. People getting a ticket for speeding or running stop signs? They don’t like seeing police officers. People frustrated because officers take a while to get to their address because they’ve been on more pressing calls? They’re usually not happy campers. Contrast that to firefighters. Everyone is happy to see them.

It is the lot of those who chose a public safety career as a peace officer.

Manteca Police put their lives on the line for Manteca’s 65,000 residents day in and day out.

They also go above and beyond manning a fireworks booth during their time-off to help the city raise $7,000 to $10,000 each year to pay for the aerial fireworks display plus use other proceeds to support numerous community endeavors.

If that wasn’t enough, now they are helping keep the city from literally collapsing financially. You see the rank and file police have gone farther than any other bargaining unit in the city. They stepped up to the plate as the imploding economy has threatened to steer the city over the edge. They agreed to keep 14 vacant positions to save the city money. They agreed to rethink how they do their job. They essentially are taking on more work with fewer workers.

It is true that most other departments in the city are doing the same. None, however, are going as deep as police are in actually adding significantly more stress and reducing their safety on the street. If you doubt that, you try to put yourself in a situation where you need back-up and see what it feels like. Yet not one officer would hesitate to do what they have to do to protect people.

This is why Manteca can ill afford any more cuts in the ranks of the police force. Consider how things stand now in public safety in this city. The police are down 14 positions. Firefighters are down two positions.

To give you an idea of what kind of impact that has on workload, Manteca Police the first four months of this year handled 11,701 service requests, made 1,237 arrests, handled 824 felony cases, and another 1,984 misdemeanors ranging from domestic violence and forgery to substance abuse offenses. The fire department in all of 2008 handled 4,823 calls with 270 fires, 3,120 medical emergencies, and 832 other emergencies plus 601 service calls. Yes, it is kind of like comparing apples and oranges yet one group is juggling a heck of a lot more things with a heck of a lot less manpower.

This column, in a way, is selfish. You see I’m like most Manteca residents. I want to make sure there are officers to keep law and order. It’s not fun getting tickets but you’ve got to remember without peace officers they’d be chaos.

We truly can’t afford any more cuts from Manteca’s police services.

By the way, that pension that police officers will get through the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) – they earned it and they also pay for it.

Police officers in Manteca don’t get Social Security. They pay right around 9 percent of their salary into the PERS account. Most don’t make it to 30 years. They retire sooner. You would too if you’re being worn down daily with stress, foot chases, physical confrontations with suspects. It isn’t exactly a desk job.

It’s true no one forced them to take the job. But they did and they’re doing it. Not you, not me.

Besides, the PERS system for years didn’t cost the city much at all. The reason was simple. Employee contributions were wisely invested. It wasn’t until a few years ago that the Wall Street meltdown started that the city actually started contributing their share. Dividends and interest paid generated by PERS paid it before.

And to get up to the level needed to justify their future returns the police officers a few years ago agreed to forgo a 6 percent pay raise one year to send more money into the PERS account.

The typical Manteca Police officer who retires gets around 67 percent of his working salary, not the maximum 90 percent as allowed under the PERS plan.

 They voluntarily stepped forward and absorbed the biggest share of the budget pain. There are some serious decisions to be made in the coming months with more cuts as Manteca tries to bridge another $2 million of the deficit plus try to operate with the state swiping another $1.2 million in property taxes.

Manteca Police deserve our gratitude not just for physically protecting Manteca but for protecting it fiscally as well.
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