MARTINEZ, Calif. – Martinez police officers will get an additional 8 percent raise starting July 1, Martinez City Council has decided.
However, the city needs to find a better way to assure that the ongoing costs of public safety are funded without dipping into reserves, Martinez’s “rainy day” and one-time expenditure money, Vice Mayor Lara DeLaney said during Wednesday’s meeting.
With the unanimous vote, the Council authorized spending 720,000 in unallocated reserves for its sworn officers. City officials are continuing to talk about pay with the Martinez Police’s nonsworn employees.
The city has funding for 34 officer positions, but only 29 of those are filled and another officer is leaving, according to Assistant City Manager Anne Cardwell. For some time, officers have worked overtime and have been pulled off such special assignments as working with the homeless and handling traffic matters just to have enough officers on patrol.
Even Police Chief Manjit Sappal and department commanders have picked up patrol shifts.
Officers and police labor representatives have told city administrators that Martinez’s lower wages have made it difficult to recruit for vacancies. Those who make the grade often benefit from Martinez’s widely-respected training program, but then move on to other departments that offer better pay.
The item, in which the Council would concur with a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Martinez Police Officers Association (MPOA), which already has agreed to its provisions, had been placed on the Council’s consent calendar. But it was pulled for individual comment.
Councilmember Mark Ross said the city needed a “diligence period” to gather information, and the Council’s intent “is to do the best we could.”
The MPOA has been under a closed contract that expires June 30, 2019, that gave officers a 4 percent raise.
Beginning shortly after the first of the year, police leaders and city staff had met in closed session, as provided by state law, during which officers explained. In March, officers went public with their concerns, saying Martinez Police earn about 17.3 percent less than officers in neighboring cities.
With the increase approved Wednesday and the original 4 percent raise under the current contract, officers would be getting a 12 percent raise.
Not only does Wednesday’s action increase the MPOA members’ pay, it also changes the end date of the contract, from June 30, 2019 to Jan. 31, 2019.
Ross pointed out the city has accumulated “decent reserves,” but is facing future hefty expenditures. To keep up this level of pay, or to increase it, the Council will need “to talk to the real owners,” Martinez residents.
DeLaney tapped into her experiences as a county budget analyst, and reminded the Council and the audience that reserves are for one-time expenditures, not for ongoing costs, such as salaries. “It’s not a good budgeting practice.”
She found the city’s predicament “deeply disturbing,” both in having a police force that is paid less than those of other cities as well as being forced to spend its reserves.
Those reserves are the city’s fiscal cushion against unexpected or unusual costs. Two are looming on the horizon. One is the increasing cost of employee benefit and pension costs for retirees under the California Public Employees Retirement Service. Another is the city’s upcoming hefty payment to Social Security after the dissolution of the Martinez and Pleasant Hill Joint Facilities Agency.
But she also recognized the need and agreed with her colleagues to approve the raise.
Councilmember Debbie McKillop, who has worked for 33 years in the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office forensics laboratory.
She said she is familiar with the types of crimes that are committed in Martinez and Contra Costa County, and said it’s significant.
She cited presentations Wednesday night that recognized Martinez Police Corporal Ryan Baillie for helping close a case of extensive human trafficking and Feet First, an organization that uses boxing as a way to restore confidence of those who have been victimized by trafficking.
She also has been attending Martinez Police’s community police academy that gives the public insight into police training and how their local law enforcement agency operates, she said.
“They put their lives on the line for all of us,” she said. “They’re out there, working long hours.” She said Martinez needs its officers out on the street to protect residents. “In my job, I see every day what happens” when police can’t prevent crimes.
She urged the Council to make public safety its top priority.
Mayor Rob Schroder called the police department “fantastic,” and said the city has had nearly a dozen meetings as it wrestled with how to deal with the officers’ comparatively lower pay while anticipating upcoming financial challenges.
“We want to support our fantastic police department,” he said. That may come in the form of a future revenue measure that would be placed before voters, so the city’s department could return officers to dealing with the city’s homeless population and protect its schools.
At the same meeting, Baillie was praised by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office representatives for years of diligent work that led to the arrest and conviction of Deandre Lewis, a Bay Point man who was found guilty in January of human trafficking, torture, aggravated mayhem, conspiracy, rape and multiple charges of pimping and pandering.
Baillie was a detective in 2014 when he began speaking with a woman who said she had been kidnapped, and as a result, her children were placed in Child Protective Services, said Phyllis
Redmond, chief assistant in the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office. The woman wanted her children back.
After four months of investigation, Baillie realized this was not an isolated case, but was part of a human trafficking ring. He discovered that the death of one woman, originally ruled a suicide, likely was a case of murder.
Lewis’s trial brought to light a case of torture in which he ordered a woman who owed him money to be scalped and cut so she thought she would die. At Lewis’s trial, the woman described how she had been cut from head to toe.
Baillie’s work was documented in 3,000 pages of reports, and women who were considered enslaved by the ring were saved, Redmond said.
Shannon Mahoney, the district attorney’s victims witness program manager, called Baillie “one of the most dedicated” officers she had met. “He put his whole self into this case.”
He spoke with women who had undergone “terrible trauma, terrible violence,” she said. “Their only job was to survive.”
In many cases, Baillie had to build the women’s trust. That was difficult, Mahoney said. It took time for Baillie to convince one woman simply to open her door.
Accounts of Lewis’s operation have compared his running the trafficking ring like a cult.
“The reason it worked was Detective Baillie didn’t give up,” she said. It took three years to bring Lewis to trial.
“It’s a fight. They needed to know you will fight for them,” she said about Lewis’s victims.
Baillie was there for them. After Lewis’s arrest, Baillie attended the trial as often as he could, showing his support for the victims who became witnesses in court.
The Martinez corporal credited his department’s administrators and the teamwork of 16 law agencies that collaborated on the investigation.
“It’s an honor to get this,” Baillie said.
Also recognized Wednesday was Feet First, a nonprofit organization that is an outgrowth of Sean Sharkey’s Fight Kore, a boxing and martial arts gymnasium in downtown Martinez.
The organization uses boxing, which focuses first on footwork, as a form of training that helps abused youth and women to gain confidence after they have been victimized. The program also is offered to at-risk students whose behavior in class improves after Feet First sessions.
Sharkey has been offering free classes to a few low income and troubled youth all all along. But four years ago, another resident, Dan Dorsett, started going to the gym as part of his own desire for self-improvement.
He learned how Sharkey was helping some youth, and suggested Sharkey start a nonprofit organization so he could help more.
“Not all can handle adversity,” Dorsett sad.
Children are taught such qualities as perseverance, accountability, respect, integrity, self-defense and humility in addition to that footwork and other boxing skills.
Feet First is being offered to Vicente High School students during sixth period. It also is for children who have been traumatized, have families involved in substance abuse or other situations that impact the children.
Tanya Nemcik, who assesses clients through Feet First, said the high school students have shown improvements, especially in decreasing aggression.
Brian Donohue, president of Enterprise 501C3, said Feet First’s program “is a good thing,” and is applying to the National Institute of Health to promote its concept.
“It’s not just hit a bag,” Dorsett said. “It’s how we build better children.” In addition to offering a program to Vicente students, Fight Kore will bring Feet First to John Muir Elementary School pupils soon.
It’s also starting a certification program that focuses on character building. The certificate of completion would be something their holders could show to schools, employers and others.
He said Feet First and Fight Kore offer children a place to go when things become unpleasant at home or school.
“I promised two years ago I would start an after-school program,” he said. “Now we have 20 people working as volunteers.”