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Proposition 61: Salary Limits

October 25, 1986

Regarding your editorial (Oct. 6), "Proposition 61: Bad Medicine," I want my fellow citizens to consider heavily a bit of consumer advice when they go to the polls, "You Get What You Pay For."

I say this out of disappointment over Proposition 61, not out of anger nor bitterness. As a lieutenant (middle-manager) on a large law enforcement agency, I want the voter to think of me and my co-workers as individuals not "those public servants" nor "the government worker." We are individuals, with the same motivation, needs and desire for dignity as all workers.

When I started public service 17 years ago, like many of my co-workers, I brought valued experience to my job. I had been a military sergeant, a foreman in private industry and had nearly completed two years of college. As I worked, I (along with many peers) continued to pursue my education. I gained technical knowledge earning an associate arts degree in police science; enhanced my understanding of the behavior of people with a bachelor's degree in behavioral science, and expanded my managerial ability with a master's degree in management. I and many of my peers pursued higher education to give to those we serve our very best.

Key thoughts of my past are mild by comparison to other peace officers. I realize I am alive now only because a robber, 18 years old, was a bad shot from 10 yards away. I also remember the gratitude of an elderly retiree who had been assaulted saying, "If you had not come along, I'd be dead today."

I also recall the emotional impact I felt on a number of occasions as I responded to the dead, the injured and the battered--but that comes with the job, even when I want to forget.

In my organization, there are six ranks between me and the chief executive. If Proposition 61 passes, that means salaries will be reduced seven times by the time it gets to me, with a maximum for the chief executive of $64,000 or $48,000 depending on the court interpretation of this confusing proposition.

Like it or not, salary reduction will occur down the management and middle-management levels in order to maintain pay differences between ranks. If there is not this difference between ranks, who wants to advance to accept greater management responsibility without additional compensation?

Some people think people in management doesn't deserve what they make, well, I do, and to those doubters I say review the Challenger disaster and you will find a major cause was poor management. Vote for Proposition 61 and you may reduce the salaries of good management now, but you will pay later , and the cost will be more than just dollars.

Considering a possible salary cut, I compared my situation with two close friends. One sells pet food, the other insurance. We all have comparable years with our employers. I currently supervise 60 subordinates, my friends, less than a dozen. I serve a citizenry of more than 250,000; they would beg to serve a small percentage of my clientele. While dog and cat food have social value and insurance is nice to have, neither of my friends, nor their subordinates, have been shot at, faced a riot nor have been called upon to work at a tragedy like the air crash in Cerritos. However, both these middle-managers have recently negotiated salary in the $65,000 to $80,000 range. While I don't begrudge my friends their salary, I question a system that gives more compensation to the management of dog food, than the management of public protection.

If and only if Proposition 61 passes, I and many of my co-workers may serve for a few more years. Some will stay longer--the love of service does run deep. As for me, I will spend my off-duty hours preparing to leave public service rather than trying to enhance it as I have in the past.

I have shared my thoughts not to brag nor to beg, but to tell my fellow citizens and taxpayers of my disappointment in having to contend with this attempt to blatantly discard the loyalty, ability and experience of the many individuals who successfully serve the public. When you go to the polls remember "Caveat Emptor"--Let the Buyer Beware!



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