Working extended hours in hostile situations without lunch breaks and little promise of relief is starting to get to Salt Lake Police Officer Joe Clark.
Clark, an 18-year department veteran, was among four dozen officers who attended an informational meeting Thursday to discuss the city's proposed one-year police contract.Mayor Palmer DePaulis, although sympathetic with their plight, played the heavy again, explaining the city's cupboard is bare and no pay raises or staff increases for police can be funded.
Clark said the mayor's statements were just repeats of past administrations and contract negotiations.
"The mayor said a lot of nice things, but actions speak louder than words," Clark said. "They say anything to please us, but it just doesn't come out in the wash."
Officers said they are disgusted with the lack of pay increases in the contract and distressed with staffing levels: Nearly 400 officers were on the streets 10 years ago; now, 278 men and women make up the capital city's police department.
Only 45 officers showed up to the meeting, said Eldon Tanner, Salt Lake Police Association union chief, because "most of them are working part-time jobs" to pay bills.
Union negotiators fought to retain merit increase language in the collective bargaining agreement that members will vote on next Monday and Tuesday.
"The city wanted to wipe that out because they said there was no money for merit raises. We wanted it in there because it always has been," Tanner said.
DePaulis urged officers to ratify the contract, which includes a provision to reopen negotiations next February after tax receipts are tallied.
If extra funds from unanticipated increases come in for such things as franchise taxes, officers could receive raises, he said.
"I sense a great deal of frustration and a morale problem" among the officers, DePaulis said following the nearly 2-hour meeting.
Some officers walked up to the mayor and told him they would not vote for the contract. Others, outwardly offended at what they say are paltry offerings, told DePaulis they disagreed with his policies.
Most said they just saw DePaulis' talk as more of the same.
One detective at the meeting said she was reminded of a scene from the movie, "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," where the police chief sings about side-stepping issues.
"I thought he (DePaulis) was going to burst into song," she said.
DePaulis deflected many such verbal darts. "He took a lot of anger," said contract negotiator Richard Rieke, who noted that the officers didn't say anything rude or impertinent, but were certainly angry.
Results of the vote, which will be conducted from 8 a.m. Monday until 8 a.m. Tuesday, will be available around noon, Tanner said.