PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY — With the City Council set to vote next week on a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, the Santa Monica Police Officers Association is objecting to a proposal contained in the spending plan that would eliminate two lieutenant positions.

The SMPD’s budget proposal, which Chief Tim Jackman outlined at a public hearing in May, calls for reducing the number of budgeted lieutenant positions from 13 to 11. The positions would be eliminated through attrition, not through layoffs.

In an e-mail to the City Council on Monday that was obtained by the Daily Press, Sgt. Jay Trisler, the POA’s chair, argued the proposed staffing reduction could hurt the department’s efficiency.

“We feel that the lieutenants provide oversight and management controls which have helped with budget issues,” he wrote.

He also said if the proposed reductions are adopted the SMPD’s ratio of lieutenants to police employees would increase to 1 to 37 — higher than the ratios at comparable departments in Pasadena, Huntington Beach and Irvine.

Even after eliminating the positions, though, SMPD would still have more lieutenants to sworn officers than the departments in each of those cities, according to data Trisler cited.

City Manager Rod Gould on Wednesday defended the police department’s budget plan as a way to save City Hall $500,000 per year without hurting the department.

“We don’t think this diminishes what we can deliver from a service standpoint, otherwise we wouldn’t be making the recommendation,” he said.

With City Hall facing a $13.2 million deficit, Gould has recommended $8.1 million in spending cuts across departments to help close the gap.

Trisler said he hoped the council would either restore the positions, or in a worst-case scenario, opt to freeze them instead of eliminating them from the payroll. He said if the positions are budgeted but left unfilled, the department could add two lieutenants once revenue increases.

He said his association is mindful of budget pressures and has already helped cut costs by proposing changes to the department including the adoption of the 3-day, 12.5-hour per shift work week that Jackman has credited with a 35 percent reduction in overtime.

Lieutenants, he said, play an important roll in supervising the department’s 409 employees and were responsible for the crime fighting plan that led to a 9 percent reduction in crime last year.

Gould said that if current trends toward less crime in Santa Monica reverse, the SMPD could add positions in future budget years.

Jackman declined to comment for this article on Wednesday.

The City Council is set to adopt a budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year on June 15.

nickt@smdp.com

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