With Layoffs Looming, Tulsa is Changing Police & Fire Assignments
By Lori Fullbright, Emory Bryan & Chris Wright, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- Tulsa Police divisions and Fire Stations will have to rearrange assingments and could deal with cuts of more than 50 percent as the city finalizes plans to lay off more than 300 police officers and firefighters.
The mass layoffs become closer to reality by the minute as Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett has set a deadline of noon Friday to agree to pay cuts to avoid layoffs.
Tulsa's Police chief Ron Palmer says the current budget crisis is the greatest adversity his department has ever faced.
If the union and the city cannot reach a deal by Friday at noon, 155 officers will be notified they will be laid off, nearly 20 percent of the entire department.
The layoff notices will be given to the affected officers in two separate meetings Friday afternoon and will involve nearly every officer hired since 2005.
That means Tulsa will no longer have traffic units, school resource officers or officers dedicated to investigating prostitution and drug complaints.
All of them will be moved back to the field along with dozens of detectives from burglary, robbery, homicide, child crisis, cyber crimes, auto theft and family violence.
Losing those positions means some criminal investigations will take longer and some won't get done at all.
"You'll remember the time we did a sting operation and caught the guy and ran a warrant at his house and found 300 ID's that belonged to somebody else, so he was good for 300 crimes. Now, we may not have an opportunity to investigate that," said Chief Ron Palmer, TPD.
With all those officers taken from detective units, investigations will take longer, some won't happen at all.
Palmer says Tulsa citizens need to get ready for big changes.
"I don't think they understand that yet. They have the same expectations of service. Once the disappointments set in, we'll get calls, why didn't you do this or do that and the answer is, we're at 1980 staffing levels, with 2010 crime," Palmer said.
Officer Brandon Smith has wanted to be a Tulsa police officer since graduating kindergarten. Last year, he received the Medal of Valor for disarming a homicidal man who had a shotgun.
Officer Robby Bowman was a youth minister before becoming a police officer and has been honored with the department's life saving award. He is married with two daughters.
Officer Jeanne Mackenzie and her husband are both police officers. Her mother, father, two brothers, four uncles and grandmother either are or were in law enforcement.
These are a few of the names behind the numbers, these three and 152 others with stories of their own could lose the jobs they love.
"We've got a lot of young, good officers who will be laid off who will go to other places and not come back here and all that investment will be gone," said Chief Ron Palmer.
In addition to the 155 officers laid off, 15 other employees will lose their jobs and 70 will be re-assigned to cover the gap and go back to police cars, answering calls.
The Tulsa Police union meets again with the mayor at 10 a.m. Friday said they hope to work something out before any layoffs would take effect February 1st.
Tulsa's firefighter's union is also racing against the clock in an effort to avoid layoffs.
The fire chief says if a deal is not reached Thursday, 147 firefighters will be given layoff notices Friday.
That layoff notice starts the process that would take firefighters off the payroll by January 31st.
The process would stop if the fire union makes a deal with the city but that is in doubt with the union now turned against the fire chief over what's on the table.
At fire stations all over Tulsa, firefighters are waiting to hear if there is a deal that would save 147 of their jobs.
Under any agreement, they would take a heavy pay cut on top of the cuts they have already taken.
Thursday morning the fire chief called on the union to take the additional concessions and save the jobs.
"I think the mayor has stepped forward and made a very fair offer to save jobs and save the community and we're having a problem getting that past the labor unions," Chief Laconic said.
The firefighter union quickly responded to those comments promising they were willing to negotiate and it was the city that was being unreasonable.
"To say that we have refused to negotiate or haven't given up any concessions is not true," said Chad Miller, Tulsa Firefighters Union.
At Tulsa city hall, the firefighters union and the administration continued meetings but both sides expressed frustration over the remaining issues.
It's all against a timeline of a noon Friday deadline the mayor laid out in an e-mail to employees Thursday.
The fire chief said 147 firefighters are due to be laid off, idling 8 fire trucks, including 30 paramedics and 4 advanced life support crews.
Some stations with 2 trucks, would be cut back to 1.
"You can't lose 147 firefighters and not have an impact on public safety. It will have an impact," Laconic said.
According to Laconic, the mayor made an offer that still included a 5% pay cut but he says the city is willing to dip into its emergency reserve fund and use $1.4 million to help pay firefighter salaries.
As a result, LaCroix says everyone would keep their jobs.
"I think the mayor has stepped forward and made a very fair offer to save jobs and save the community, and we're having a problem getting that past the labor unions," said Allen LaCroix.
Laconic says if the city goes through with layoffs, no fire stations will be closed. Instead, firefighters will be asked to do more with fewer resources.
As a result, he expects both response times and fire losses to increase.
If the layoffs happen, it will be LaCroix who will have to look 147 firefighters in the eye and tell them they no longer have a job.
"It's extremely difficult. You're dealing with some young firefighters whose ambition was to be firefighters. They have studied hard, they have prepared themselves," Laconic said.
|Police Divisions Affected By Layoffs|
|Division||Detectives Assigned||Detectives To Be Cut/Reassigned||% Lost|
Special investigations division (narcotics, vice) loses 15
Dear City of Tulsa employees,
Members of the AFSCME union polled Wednesday chose workforce reductions as opposed to across the board pay reductions of five percent for all non-sworn employees.
We will honor that decision. It will apply to all departments, except sworn police and fire personnel.
We also gave the police and fire unions a choice between workforce reductions and salary/incentive reductions. The original proposed plans from the departments included layoffs. I did not believe the numbers of layoffs proposed for the front lines of the departments were acceptable, and I asked the police and fire chiefs to present plans that included reorganizations that would help them save money and save jobs on the front lines.
I also offered an alternative proposal to the fire and police unions that included a salary reduction and other cuts to incentive pay and benefits. I left the decision to them. The fire and police union leaders have not submitted the salary reduction proposal to their membership for a vote, nor have they reached an agreement on any of the concession items on the table.
The police and fire unions are still in discussions with my management team regarding any and all alternative expense reduction proposals made to date, whether from my office, the unions or the department leadership. We have informed the departments and union leadership that they must reach an agreement to either accept the proposed plan for salary reductions or an alternative by noon Friday, January 22, in order to avoid layoffs in those departments. We will keep you informed via e-mail and management if there are any new developments.
Today, Fire Chief LaCroix and Police Chief Palmer are scheduling meetings with employees that would be affected by the workforce reductions in order to prepare for layoffs and initiate the seven-day notification period.
Department directors are beginning to schedule meetings with affected employees. Human Resources will provide all the information needed to make decisions with respect to other positions in the department and applications for openings within the City of Tulsa, bumping processes and severance pay. The workforce reductions will be effective Feb. 1. Eligible, non-probationary employees will receive two weeks of compensation.
Employees with seniority who are eligible to take other positions in their department will be given the right to "bump" employees with less seniority.
This e-mail should be considered as a seven-day notification to employees who could be affected by the bumping process.
Please contact your manager, or department head with your questions so they may forward them to the appropriate Human Resources representative; or submit your questions to Human Resources at 596-7427 or firstname.lastname@example.org to be forwarded to a Human Resources representative.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett