Two weeks ago, right after the election, I wrote about a police-union video posted on YouTube right before the election. Terry Moore, president of the Chico Police Officers Association, e-mailed Chicoans to bring it to their attention; it since has been viewed more than 2,100 times. The gist: Chico Police Department staffing is at a low, while violent crime is rising. The city is less safe since this summer’s round of budget cuts; expect things to get even worse. The video ends with an admonition to research City Council candidates’ positions on police funding. The piece raised some questions, which I asked Moore by return e-mail. His one-sentence response was that the CPOA stands by its stats. That didn’t put me much farther down the information highway, so I printed my questions as an avenue for critical thinking. Last week, I received a call from Jim Parrott, one of Moore’s fellow detectives and CPOA board members. We got together Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 18), and he cordially addressed my line of inquiry. Here’s what I learned: 1) Who produced this? The video Moore described as “professionally prepared” was put together by a videographer in Oroville from material collected by Parrott. Were it a film with official Hollywood credits, “produced by” would go to Parrott. 2) Where did the statistics of calls for service and delayed response times come from? If from Chico PD, who cross-referenced and/or verified them? They came from Chico PD dispatch logs. Parrott compared call totals from 2000 to 2007 for trend numbers and used the total number of September ’08 calls coded as “delayed” by dispatchers for that figure. He vetted those figures. 3) Where did you get the stats about violent crime nationwide? From crime reports compiled by the federal government, which he found showed a rise from ’06 to ’07. (The downtick I cited came from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, whose trending reports don’t run through ’07; figures aren’t out for the year we’re in.) 4) Since CPOA didn’t endorse any candidates, either before this video or in it, is its purpose to sway voters or to encourage the public to put pressure on the council regarding the labor contract being negotiated? Parrott says its purpose is public information. Details on staffing levels were presented at City Council meetings related to budget cuts; CPOA felt additional exposure was needed. 5) Regarding the contract talks, does the video suggest CPOA is concerned about the number of officers rather than “me too” pay and benefit increases? Or is CPOA pushing for both? CPOA’s priority is staffing—having enough men and women in uniform to maximize effectiveness and officer safety. 6) Does CPOA doubt the city’s budget crisis? If not—i.e. CPOA agrees the city has a budget crisis—where specifically does it recommend cuts in order to pay for additional officers? While police officers have heard “money is tight” during previous negotiations, they don’t doubt the veracity of City Hall deficit talk. Parrott acknowledges that CPOA’s negotiations come at a less-fortunate time than the firefighters’—but it’s hard not to look at the circumstances of their public-safety siblings, whom the City Council gave generous step-increases just last year.
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