118 Miami Dade officers laid off-police committed to core service www.privateofficer.com
Miami Fla Jan 16 2012 The day after Miami-Dade County sent layoff notices to 118 police officers, Police Department Director Jim Loftus said his force remains committed to its core service despite what he called a “crisis.”
“This is a big hit for us. It hurts in every possible way, but we will find a way to get through this for the betterment of the people we serve. That’s our focus,” Loftus said.
The layoffs represent roughly 5 percent of the department’s workforce of 2,000 officers. In addition to the 118 layoffs, there were 41 demotions, including some officers moved to public safety aides or other administrative roles.
Lofuts detailed what that means for residents in a nearly hour-long press conference Saturday with reporters. “The ultimate commitment is to the thing I call the road,” he said. “When people call, they want someone to come.”
With that priority, Loftus said he expects that:
• The response time for 911 calls will remain the same for now.
• Police units that combat violent crime will not be affected, nor will the number of police officers who patrol the streets. A patrol officer who has been laid off will be replaced with another officer from another unit.
Yet there will be fewer resources for units that deal with property crimes, economic crimes and community service projects. So it might take longer for Miami-Dade police to follow up on a robbery that occurred at a home while the owner was out of town, for example.
In addition, Loftus said there could be a longer, lasting effect — that the layoffs could make it harder to train the next generation of officers and management.
Recounting anecdotes of officers slated to leave the department — including one whose late dad was a former homicide sergeant and whose mom also worked at the department — Loftus called the layoffs the second hardest thing he has had to do in his career. The first: burying slain officers Amanda Haworth and Roger Castillo last year. “This as it stands right now, it’s No. 2,” he said.
The top cop met with his boss, Mayor Carlos Gimenez, and the mayor’s executive staff Friday evening and discussed how they would tell residents what the layoffs will mean to the community. Loftus said there was no tension or friction, rather a “sense of resignation and sorrow.”
The county also sent pink slips Friday to 17 corrections officers.
Also affected: the Government Supervisors Association of Florida OPEIU Local 100, which represents professional employees and supervisors. Only a handful of those union members received pink slips Friday, but more are expected beginning Tuesday.
The layoffs don’t take effect until Feb. 3, giving Gimenez one more shot — at a Jan. 24 meeting — at persuading county commissioners to impose a controversial concession on members of the powerful Dade Police Benevolent Association to save the jobs. The mayor wants union members to contribute an additional 5 percent of their pay toward healthcare, bringing their total contribution to 10 percent.
As for what Loftus would like to see come out of that Jan. 24 meeting: “I want our police department intact because I think that’s would be the best thing for everybody,” he said, noting that’s what he hoped for during the difficult contract negotiations.
Gimenez’s administration has identified 282 positions to eliminate from the GSAF union’s ranks, though some of them are already vacant. It has taken the county longer to figure out who will be affected by those layoffs because of so-called bumping rights that allow some employees to land jobs in other county departments.
Police and corrections terminations were almost entirely determined by seniority, with the newest officers let go first, though 13 officers who would have otherwise been laid off will be able to look for posts elsewhere in county government.
Earlier, the administration had said that at least 154 police officers and 145 corrections officers likely would lose their jobs.
The corrections department avoided additional layoffs by deciding to transfer inmates from the Women’s Detention Center in Miami, which the county will eventually close, to Turner Gilford Knight Correctional Center east of Doral. The department also plans to phase out a popular juvenile boot camp.
Both unions — after renegotiating their contracts with the county and agreeing to numerous cuts and concessions — hit an impasse over the extra 5 percent healthcare contribution. Gimenez, who had warned commissioners they might have to impose unpopular concessions after approving a lower property-tax rate last year, asked the county commission to impose the concession anyway.
But a majority of commissioners, saying employees had already given up too much to help balance the county’s 2011-12 budget, rejected Gimenez’s proposal on Jan. 5, prompting the layoffs.
“This has been a difficult process,” Gimenez wrote in a memo to commissioners late Friday, “but given that we are over three months into this fiscal year and with other cost-saving alternatives being currently exhausted, these personnel reductions are now a necessary part of fulfilling our legal obligation to balance the budget.”