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06-02-2007, 05:07 AM
Lauderdale police say pay, staffing too low, crime up


By Brian Haas
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

June 2, 2007


FORT LAUDERDALE All is not well at the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, according to a new union survey.

Morale is abysmal, the city is a bad place to work and things just aren't going in the right direction, the local Fraternal Order of Police survey of more than 300 police employees found. The respondents represented about 65 percent of the department's workers.

Then, there's the pay issue, advertised on a newly erected billboard off Sunrise Boulevard just west of Interstate 95. It reads: "Your Fort Lauderdale Police Officers want to Thank You for your support. Paid for by the lowest paid Police Officers in Broward County."

"There's trouble in paradise" said Sgt. Mike Tucker, union vice president. "This place used to be paradise to work."

More than 94 percent of those surveyed said morale at the department was poor or very poor, according to the union.

Sixty-seven percent said the city isn't a good place to work and more than 83 percent wouldn't recommend working there.

About 90 percent said they think the city is moving in the wrong direction.

Police Chief Bruce Roberts could not be reached for comment Thursday or Friday. City officials dispute the survey as nothing more than tactics to influence contract talks.

"The FOP has -- maybe an agenda is too strong a word here -- a perspective that is being used to leverage their position at the negotiation table," said Assistant City Manager David Hebert. "I would not lend validity to the FOP's actions at this stage."

For the billboard, union officials surveyed Broward police agencies to determine how much a 10-year veteran makes, a common figure used to lure new recruits.

Fort Lauderdale is at $63,897 -- second-lowest in the county, after Lauderhill. The union worries that officers will leave and current salaries will make recruiting more difficult.

"We're not asking to be paid like doctors. We're not asking to be paid like lawyers. We're asking to be paid competitively with others in our career field," said Sgt. Mitch Van Sant, second vice president of the police union.

Hebert countered that the city's own surveys show that if all the benefits a Fort Lauderdale officer receives are included, the department is competitive. He said the city results were not available because they are still being compiled.

The union says violent crimes rose over the past three years, yet the department remains understaffed by more than 40 officers.

Hebert said the number is closer to 35, but the department is below 1990 staffing levels, according to statistics kept by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

"Crime waits for nobody and if there are less cops on the streets, crime will rise," Tucker said.

Hebert said the department has an adequate number of officers and that they are able to do more with less these days. He said statistics for the last 18 months show overall declines in crime.

"We remain effective in addressing the issues of crime," he said. "The truth is, this is a success story."

The city's crime statistics, however, show increases in homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated batteries from 2005 to 2006.

The police union contract ends Oct. 1 and despite the acrimony, Hebert said he's confident the city and police union will find common ground.

"I am absolutely convinced and committed that this department will be treated equitably and fairly and has every right to expect that to be the result of our contract negotiations," he said.

Brian Haas can be reached at bhaas@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4597.

06-02-2007, 06:14 AM
Thanks for telling the real story, Brian Haas...the citizens deserve it and the cops appreciate it!