February 4, 2003
continue to show integrity
Police officers wish to restore the funds
Last week, in this column, I asked you to suggest ways
to handle a $327,000 error in payment to Salinas police
A clerical mistake of a 1.5 percent had gone unnoticed
from Jan. 1, 2001, until late last year. When the mistake
was addressed, police demonstrated integrity with their
commitment to pay back what was owed. I asked whether
there were gracious (and legal) alternatives the community
might consider to ease any immediate financial impact
on the affected officers.
Those who enforce the law (our police force) communicated
that they were and are completely committed to following
the law and will be paying back the money, but they certainly
appreciated the outpouring of concern.
On behalf of the officers many of you have contacted,
I want to say "thank you" for your calls, e-mails
Two leaders from the Salinas Police Officers Association
have communicated to me about the positive impact on morale
generated by your personal contacts and words of appreciation.
Thank you for responding and for caring.
Encouraging those who provide security to our community
is wise indeed.
Law enforcement is the bedrock upon which to build and
maintain a safe and healthy environment. Safe neighborhoods
also can help strengthen property values across the city.
Likewise, when communities support police with fair salaries
and respect, turnover in the department is likely to be
diminished. Everyone understands that turnover is expensive.
Replacing veteran officers is costly because it requires
hiring, training and launching a new person into the business
of law enforcement. It is important to keep those officers
who have been, and are, doing a good job.
Yes, the feedback from last week's column was encouraging.
Individuals responded positively, making suggestions regarding
ways to help the officers avoid the need to return the
overpayment. For a variety of reasons, creating a fund
to channel money directly to the officers was determined
not to be legal. The police officers have committed to
the proper restoring of funds, and the Police Officers
Association supports the decision.
So, what else might be done to sustain and even enhance
the levels of effectiveness of the Salinas Police Department?
Thank members of the police force, in writing, by e-mails
and in person, for doing their jobs even on those infrequent
occasions when they might need to "regulate your
actions" (when you might have forgotten to stop at
a sign or when you might have been driving above posted
Offer assistance to those officers who donate their own
time, weekly, to work with youth in sports and physical
fitness programs -- strengthening the confidence of young
people while attempting to prevent negative images about
law enforcement from continuing with younger people.
Share positive stories about the "beyond the call
of duty" efforts of officers.
Contact the Police Officers Association directly through
Officer Steve Long, president, 758-7131. In addition to
saying "thank you," consider a tax-deductible
contribution and ask if you might earmark your dollars
for one of the many special needs that might assist those
on the police force.
Invite members of the police force, through the Police
Officers Association, to attend and even speak at your
organization's meetings. Such forums promote communication
that benefits everyone.
Integrity throughout the community can be strengthened
with and through those who are stewards of safety, security
and peace. When a community combines character with graciousness
it is obvious that Integrity Matters.