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Union asks for more officers

Larry Bammer asks council to 'unfreeze' positions so they can be filled, citing resignations. City manager says all city positions are being evaluated.

March 03, 2011|By Barbara Diamond, coastlinepilot@latimes.com

The Police Department needs more officers to protect the public, according to Laguna Beach Police Employee Assn. President Larry Bammer.

Bammer pleaded with the City Council on Tuesday to unfreeze hiring for the department and prove that public safety is its top priority.

"In the past two years, the residents and business owners in Laguna Beach have lost three police officers who would be patrolling the streets," Bammer said. "Now there are two more positions open through retirement that may not be filled.

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"Tuesday morning, the chief filled one position, but later that day he was told by the city manager there was a freeze and he had to call and retract the job offer."

City Manager John Pietig said Thursday that a freeze is in effect for some positions as he begins to prepare for the 2011-12 budget and evaluates the current financial situation.

"We are looking at all vacancies citywide and evaluating at what level they need to be filled, if at all," Pietig said.

Bammer told the council that the freeze indicated to him that city management is not making officers or public safety a top priority, as the most-recently elected council members claimed in the November campaign.

"Elizabeth Pearson's top priority, if elected, was No. 1 public safety," Bammer said. "Councilman [Kelly] Boyd said one of his goals for his third term was to assure resources for police. Voters were urged to vote for Toni Iseman in 2010 because of her commitment to public safety, which won her the prized endorsements of the Laguna Beach Police Employee Assn. and the Laguna Beach Firefighters.

"I got those quotes from their campaigns."

Bammer said he has met with Police Chief Paul Workman and Pietig as recently as two weeks ago when the jail staff was cut and now he was speaking to the council, which is the voice of the community.

"As each of you ran for reelection, you boldly stated that public safety was of the utmost importance," Bammer said.

"Why do we continue to lose positions and significantly cut back on beach patrol and jailers?

"Right now, we have a 3-1 ratio of supervisors to patrol officers. What other agency had that? What other business in the private sector is run this way?"

The elimination of five positions equals an entire shift of officers missing on a Friday and Saturday night, Bammer said.

"At some point, the criminals are going to see Laguna as a haven in which to engage in criminal activity because our focus has shifted," Bammer said.

He urged the council to direct the city manager to unfreeze at least two positions.

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