Police officers, saying they are dangerously overworked and underpaid, have decided to throw their political weight into two re-election campaigns for the West Valley City Council.
Police officers agreed to donate $2,000 and personal time to campaign for City Council members Janice Fisher and Carroll Elford, who they think will champion their cause. They also will support Joyce Jones, who is running against incumbent Councilman Gearld Wright, and will remain neutral in the race between Susan Greathouse and incumbent Duane Moss.City officials say they recognize the staffing problems, but say residents aren't willing to support a tax increase for improved protection. City Manager John Newman said police officers have "got to wake up and smell the coffee.
"There's no communication gap," Newman said. "We know exactly what the needs are. The police chief has made it abundantly clear to me. We've made it abundantly clear to the council.
"And the citizens have made it abundantly clear to us they don't want any tax increase."
And Newman said the police department got $465,000, the majority of the city's year-end surplus, for new equipment and cars in June.
The West Valley Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police met Wednesday to discuss organizing possible job actions, ranging from political support to an organized walk-out. Their effort comes just weeks before the Nov. 7 general election, when four of the seven-member City Council face re-election battles. Public safety wasn't a major topic during primary elections.
The group also voted to spend $5,000 on a public awareness campaign, said Officer Dave Staley, who attended the meeting.
"The police department is not going to abandon the citizens of West Valley City. We're not going to go out on `blue flu.' We're not going to go on strike," Staley said. "We want the public to be aware of the problems we're facing."
Officers contend they've been commanded not to refer complaining residents to their elected officials, but that all complaints have to be routed through Newman's office. Mayor Brent Anderson said there is no official city policy concerning the routing of complaints about city services. Newman said any organization is based on a chain of command, and complaints are routed through that chain.
Anderson said residents may want more police and fire protection, but no one wants to pay for it. "We haven't had any public hearings and it has not been addressed specifically, but everybody talks about maintaining the tax levy at what it is."
West Valley Police Chief Dennis Nordfelt agrees that his 85-member force is woefully underfunded and that morale is low. He said 35 more officers are needed to adequately protect the 100,000 residents who live in the state's second largest city.