Message from the Chief
February 26, 2010
Over the past several months, and in prior Chief’s Updates, I have asked that we continue to stand together and demonstrate both teamwork and leadership. That despite these unprecedented challenges, we stay focused on the goals we set to serve our community: fighting crime, and providing the very highest caliber in quality police services. And that is what each of you has continued to do.
Over the past month, I have met with police employees, union representatives, community members, the City Manager, Mayor and Council members. I have attended and spoken publically at a total of 8 employee and community forums, represented our Department, and advocated for what is right for our community – primarily, full staffing within our police department.
As quoted on Feb 18, 2010 in the Arizona Republic, I stated at the Community Forum: “Let me be very direct and candid with you. With cuts to the police department of this magnitude . . .that will have a significant impact on public safety, Ryff said. We have an economic issue here – a depression. But that doesn’t mean the criminals are going to go away. The fact that I put forth a proposal does not mean . . . I agree with that (mandated budget reduction). (But) we have to play a part.”
Significant indicators show us that our community understands we have played our part, and that we have stepped up alongside our fellow city departments as directed. We have worked hard to create positive and productive relationships with our citizens, and we are seeing the results in the outpouring of community support we have received during the recent budget forums, in phone calls and emails, and at neighborhood meetings.
The majority of citizens have voiced strong support. During each of the community forums, when asked by residents about police officer staffing, I have responded by working to educate and inform them about the challenges and difficulties for all our employees, and the added dangers our police officers face on a daily basis. In those conversations, I have made clear the consequences that cutting positions from our department will have on both our preventive and responsive capabilities.
There is positive news as relates to the budget. The City Manager noted in his recent employee email that substantial restorations have been recovered for the general fund through:
• Re-negotiating City health contracts. Thanks to the good work of the results team, this will add a projected $3 million toward balancing the deficit.
• Increasing the sales tax. The City Council voted to request Tempe citizens to increase the sales tax by .2%, which is anticipated to reduce the deficit by $7 to 9 million.
• Offering voluntary concessions. All department heads have elected to voluntarily give up a total of 8% of salaries and benefits toward balancing the deficit and preserving employee positions.
So what is next? March 4 is an important date, on which the City Council meets for an additional Budget Workshop in the morning, to be followed by a Special Budget Session that evening to discuss in detail the steps they will begin to direct the City Manager to implement. This will be the day that Council members will have an opportunity to re-prioritize items on the proposal.
The working relationship that the members of the City Council and City management have forged with our department has been exceptional. This Council has been consistently supportive in the past; in multiple meetings, they have each spent a great deal of time with me asking questions and receiving detailed information as to the consequent ramifications of cuts to each and every police item in the proposal.
I have said that the past months have been the most difficult that our organization and its employees have faced. But as all of us have experienced in our lives, out of struggle and perseverance comes resolve, clarity and strong progress. I want you to know that I am taking strategic action, by working with our City Council, City Manager, Employee Groups, and Community and Neighborhood groups, and aggressively advocating that we continue to set the bar and provide the exceptional level of service that you and our community members expect and deserve.
As Chief, I remain committed to representing your concerns and interests as employees, and leading our department through this depression into the future.