Salt Lake City and the police union have made some headway toward resolving a dispute between officers and Chief Ruben Ortega.
"I'm encouraged so far, but obviously we're a long ways away," said David Greer, president of the Salt Lake Police Association.Union leaders met with city attorneys last week and plan to meet again to discuss complaints about Ortega's management style. Greer says many of Ortega's decisions have brought morale down in the department, particularly by intruding into officers' personal lives and handing out "arbitrary and capricious" discipline.
"We have formulated some plans we hope will help us solve some of the problems in the department and the outstanding legal issues," Greer said. Some of the legal issues include appeals the union has filed on behalf of disciplined officers.
"The city has been very receptive. I think it was an eye opener to them to see what the issues really are," Greer said, adding that the union also has had its eyes opened by hearing the city's concerns and viewpoints.
"We can't be fighting each other inside; that's killing us," he said.
"The war of words is over," said City Attorney Roger Cutler. "We will be able to go forward."
Ortega has not participated in the negotiations but is presumably being consulted by the attorneys. He has said he is willing to discuss the issues.
Union leaders had planned to circulate a petition denouncing Ortega's management style and will discuss that during a general membership meeting Wednesday night.
"I think basically what we'll do is put into place a contingency" in case the city negotiations fail, Greer said.