The Salt Lake City Police Association voted Wednesday to support the sending of a letter to the U.S. Olympics Committee on May 3 - but the contents of that letter will depend on whether police receive an indication of support and an "adequate" pay raise from the city.
The letter will either warn that the city may be incapable of providing adequate security for any Winter Olympic Games, or it will say the city can handle the situation, said association President David P. Greer."If the mayor wants to show us he's prepared to rebuild the department, that's exactly what we're going to say," he said. If not, the letter will "lay out how things have gone over the past 10 years.
"There's no reason to make a negative recommendation if it all works out," Greer said Thursday.
"We think it's important that the people know the condition of the police department that will provide the security for the Olympic Games. Right now, it's pretty sad."
Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis called the tactic a stab at "personally embarrassing" him and said many may perceive the move as an attempt to hold the Olympics hostage to the union's collective-bargaining position.
"I don't feel that way. But I think a lot of people feel intimidated by the tactic," he said.
What's more, DePaulis said, the union's behavior is ironic in light of complaints by the union last year that the administration wasn't taking a strong economic-development stance. "Last year they told me the reason they don't have any money is because I wasn't doing anything for economic development," DePaulis said. "This year . . . the bid for the Olympics, if anything, is something that would bring economic development to the city."
"I think there's a lot of sympathy (among citizens for the police) . . . but a lot of those same people tell me they don't have much money either," he said.
Greer admits he is starting to get pressure from concerned businessmen, who have told him not to send a letter that may jeopardize the city's bid to host the Winter Olympics in the future. His response?
"Call the mayor and tell the mayor to start a rebuilding program."
Greer said the tactic is not blackmail. He said he is as anxious as the next guy to see Salt Lake City host the 1998 games, but believes he has an obligation to let the public know that with the current state of the police department, Salt Lake City may not be the best choice.
"Despite what the numbers are, Salt Lake City is still a safe place, but when you bring the Olympics here, it's a whole new ball game," he said.
The union president admits he is concerned that his plan may backlash and turn away public support for the police department's plight, but emphasized the need to "be responsible."
"I hope the citizens would understand what we're up against."
Greer said the letter will be sent on May 3 because that is the latest he can wait, yet still allow the USOC to get the letter and read it before critical decisions are made.
Members of the USOC will be in town Friday to personally inspect the sites proposed by the Salt Lake Winter Games Organizing Committee, but Greer said he has no plans to make contact with them "unless they contact me."
During Wednesday's meeting, officers also voted to picket the city's gala reopening Saturday of the renovated City-County Building. Officers will picket the ceremony in protest of an already-proposed 2 percent pay raise that they call an insult.
Officers have gone without a cost-of-living increase since 1985, and it's been two years since any merit raises were passed on to the department.
Officers staged a sickout last July 4th holiday to protest the contract that the city offered. No agreement was ever reached, and firefighters and police since have been working without contracts.