As the very tense issue over proposed cuts of nearly half of the Mammoth Police force continues to unfold, Mammoth’s Police Lieutenant has taken issue with a statement made by the Mayor over a potential reserve or volunteer police program. The Mayor apologized for his “misinterpretation.”
When Sierra Wave Media contacted Lieutenant John Mair about his views, he said the option of a reserve or volunteer program does not exist in Mammoth Lakes and that reserves can not replace regular police.
In an interview with Sierra Wave Media, Mayor Matthew Lehman commented that the proposal to cut seven officers from the seventeen-officer department could be modified or changed. He referred to a “letter from Lt. Mair who said we need time to put in place a reserve and volunteer-type program, as much as six months,” said the Mayor.
In an email to the Town Council, Lt. Mair made it clear that our story quoting Mayor Lehman did not represent his views. When asked about his comment on Lt. Mair’s memo, Mayor Lehman said, “I guess I interpreted it that way. That was my mistake,” he said. Then the Mayor said that he would like to hear why a reserve/ volunteer program doesn’t work. “I think we have to do the research,” said Lehman. He apologized for his misinterpretation of Lt. Mair’s memo and added that the Town is “looking for other solutions and how not to make the police cuts.”
In a memo that went to the Town Council, Lt. Mair had said that the “plan to eliminate seven sworn positions and replace them with reserve or volunteers is not a viable option here in Mammoth.” Mair said the population base is not large enough here. He said reserves do contribute but can not replace regular officers. Mair said the Council wants to eliminate seven positions and then find a way to supplement the work force later instead of building a pool of volunteers and reserves first. Mair said, “Making these cuts without a workable solution in place is just a big gamble, and speaking from my experience I do not believe it is viable.”
Mair also pointed out that reserves and volunteers take more supervision and training than regular officers. He asked, who will recruit, train and work with these volunteers since the officers left will already be doing many more jobs than before. Lt. Mair was adamant in his concern that the Town can not replace 46% of the department with volunteers. He called this idea “ludicrous.” (Read below – Lt. Mair’s original memo to the Police Chief and Town Council and his second communication after the Mayor’s comments.)
(This is the original memo that went to the police chief and the Town Council)
I’ve been reading with interest the discussions on reserve officers and volunteers to replace full time, sworn officers here at MLPD and feel that I need to contribute. First, the plan to eliminate seven sworn positions and replace them with reserve or volunteers is not a viable option here in Mammoth. I have worked at departments with Police Reserve Officers and they do contribute to the community, but not as replacements for regular officers.
Here in Mammoth, we do not have the population base to draw from to get the needed amount of officers to fill the vacancies created by these extreme cuts, nor do I believe that this plan has been thoroughly investigated as being viable. The Council wants to eliminate seven positions, then find a way to supplement the work force at a later date, rather than building a pool of volunteers and reserves first, getting them hired, trained and on board prior to stripping the PD. Making these cuts without a workable solution in place is just a big gamble, and speaking from my experience I do not believe it is viable.
The proposal suggests cutting almost ALL police supervision (Lieutenant and two Sergeants) leaving a Sergeant to handle all administrative and patrol functions. This leaves NO supervision in the field, a situation that asks for problems. In addition, volunteers and reserves take more supervision and training than regular officers (they are here only part time, not dedicated to this profession, have limited exposure to situations, etc..) so who do you suggest will recruit, train and work with these volunteers? The officers that are left here after the cuts are made? The same ones that will already be asked to work more, make decisions that a supervisor should be making, deal with the day-to-day decisions that a supervisor makes as well as the collateral assignments that will have to be doled out to each officer? I’m talking scheduling, training, range duties, arrest and control, investigations, internal affairs complaints….the list goes on, but you get my point.
Or will that responsibility go to the lone Sergeant who is left, piling more onto an already overloaded plate of responsibilities? So these same officers now saddled with all the before-mentioned items, will then be expected to train, supervise, document and deal with part-time amateurs in addition to their regular duties? Don’t get me wrong, volunteers have good hearts and are generally good people wanting to help, but that is a small part. Expecting to replace 46%of this department with volunteers is ludicrous. would we suggest this for the any other position in this town? I know that you are being directed to take this approach to solve a budget dilemma, but at some point the truth of the matter has to be told in no uncertain terms: THIS APPROACH IS NOT VIABLE AND WE NEED TO FIND A SOLUTION THAT IS!!
I realize that my position has been cut, but these suggested solutions have a potential for disaster for the department and the town. I believe that we should be spending this valuable time on workable solutions since we are not an apparent tight time frame. We should look at how we are going to deliver service with only ten sworn officers; developing a schedule that accurately reflects a part-time police department since we will not be able to cover a 24/7 schedule; look at cutting services that are not required by the PD such as traffic accidents, fingerprinting, civil stand-by calls, etc..; Having a large part-time reserve or volunteer program will cause us MORE work not less, even if we did have the pool of citizens to draw from.
Just my thoughts, John.
(Below is the second communique from Lt. Mair to the Town Council)
I read the story posted on Sierra Wave today (October 9, 2012) By Benett Kessler regarding police department cuts and the decision making process behind it. I recently wrote a memo regarding the viability of reserve officers and volunteers to staff the department in place of full-time sworn officers, and thought I was clear about the chances of success that this proposal has. The Sierra Wave article refers to my memo as saying that we need up to six months to get a viable program up and running to fill seven vacancies at the PD. Let me be clear to all of you: That is not what I said. I have attached the memo in its entirety below for you to read. Having worked in departments where viable reserve and volunteer programs exist, that option DOES NOT EXIST HERE IN MAMMOTH.
When you have a large population base such as Southern California, you have a large pool of people willing to volunteer, a situation that we do not have here. In addition, most reserve officers have other full-time employment and are usually required to meet a two-shift per month commitment to the department. With that, its takes years to recruit, train and certify a reserve to the level that they could work by themselves. POST recently changed requirements for reserves making the commitment to be a reserve officer about the same as a full-time officer. They certainly are good for riding in the car with a full-time officer and learning the job, but are not a replacement for them.
The same situation exists for volunteers: usually retired citizens who want to stay involved but they cannot supplant regular officers. They work part-time when they can, but have other pressing issues in their lives as retirees. As you will read in the memo attached below, I feel that we need to be looking at realistic, viable solutions to this problem, not constantly asking Chief Watson to conduct staff-reports on programs that are not realistic here. Most of you have known me for a long time and know that I love it here, as does Chief Watson. Between the two of us we have about 70 years on the job so how about including us in finding solutions rather than directing us to conduct busy-work that will end up wasting all of our collective time?
I wouldn’t assume to tell any of you how to run your businesses as an outsider and not knowing the business, I would probably consult with someone who has been in the business awhile and learn about it and then make informed decisions. Both Chief Watson and I are here for a reason, and that’s to help find a workable solution and shape the departments’ future. It has been rare that I have worked directly with any of you. My job is to support the Chief and run the day-to-day operations of the department, but such a role demands that I say what is needed. This solution will not work and is not viable in the next year at least, most likely several years. Please read the memo I sent yesterday it is attached below. Again, we are here to help with the situation, not to work against you, so contact us anytime, something that has not happened in the recent decision-making process.
Thanks for your time, John.