GUEST LETTER: Santa Clara Police Chief Owes Officers Money and an Explanation
Editor’s Note: We are publishing this letter because it’s an important community issue, and we would like to ensure that community voices are heard. We welcome opinions from all views.
By Sgt. Pat Nikolai
On February 21, I spoke in front of the City Council regarding the SF 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks game that took place on January 1 at Levi’s Stadium. I told them how Police Chief Mike Sellers and City Manager Rajeev Batra made promises to Santa Clara police officers to recruit us to work at the game and now seem unable to keep those promises.
Here’s the story. Since NFL games are considered a private event, officers must volunteer to work in their off time, or with overtime. This system, if managed properly, should also ensure that Santa Clara neighborhoods are protected by on-duty officers.
Leading up to the game, it became apparent that the game was understaffed, and that we needed significantly more officers in order to have a safe event.
So, the department offered to pay officers double-time for the event, instead of the usual overtime rate. Police Chief Sellers and City Manager Batra both approved this plan and said they would recommend it to the City Council.
Human Resources Director Liz Brown then drafted an email outlining this proposal. She noted that the next council meeting was after the game, so the payment would be retroactive.
At the game, the Chief attended several of the briefings. He again said that he was recommending double time for all POA members. He additionally said that he was recommending that all special event officers (SEO) be compensated at time and half. Having heard the Chief, and after speaking to many officers who attended the briefings, we all believed that the extra pay was guaranteed.
However, we were told that the Council had not approved the extra pay, because it would be a violation of Measure J that prohibits general fund money being used for stadium operations.
We also heard the 49ers refused to pay.
So why did the Chief and City Manager offer us double-time? And why did the Chief offer the SEO’s time and a half? Does he still not understand how to manage the stadium’s public safety budget within the confines of Measure J?
Regardless, the Chief made a promise, and I believe he needs to honor it, especially if he wants to successfully recruit officers for the next NFL season.
Editor’s note: We’ve offered Chief Sellers an opportunity to write a response to this. He was not available immediately, as he was out-of-town when we contacted him. We will publish his side of this at a future time, when and if he responds. Nikolai is President of the Santa Clara POA and he ran for police chief against Sellers last year.