By William Abernathie
Created: 04/14/2011 06:51:24 PM PDT

There has been a lot of talk lately about the salaries and retirement benefits of public employees. I have been listening not only as the President of SEBA, the San Bernardino County Safety Employees’ Benefit Association, but as someone who has worked my entire adult life in law enforcement in California. I am a sergeant with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, with more than three decades of experience working in my community.

I also have experience in law enforcement at the statewide level, serving on the Executive Committee of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, PORAC, representing 62,000-plus public safety members.

San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies and public safety members in our community do our job because we love it. We are there to protect the public in our neighborhoods, from gangs, guns and violence. We believe that if your families aren’t safe, nothing else matters.

Peace officers put our lives on the line every day. Recently an officer in the Los Angeles area was shot in the face by a suspect after responding to a domestic violence 9-1-1 call. Another officer in the Cathedral City area died in a vehicle accident while pursuing a wanted subject. Our job is not easy. But the rewards far outweigh the risk.

We agree that California is facing a major budget deficit as our country is just beginning to recover from the worst economy most of us have seen in our lifetime. Policy leaders are being forced to pare the services being offered in all of our communities.

However, we believe that the attacks on hardworking people are wrong. The financial problems in California are shared by all of us and peace officers in San Bernardino County want to be part of the solution. We agreed to concessions two years ago that represent a step backward in our compensation package.

Last year changes were made within the county public safety organizations which resulted in pay cuts and changes in working conditions for many of our members. These changes saved the county millions of dollars. Safety members are currently deciding on whether additional concessions are warranted or not.

It is important that we have these discussions at the bargaining table. We need to ensure that we offer benefits that keep us viable in the marketplace. It is critical to our community that we are able to recruit and retain well-trained, effective officers, who are willing to risk everything for the good of the community.

We urge the county to work with employee organizations, such as ours, to come to an agreement that will not hinder the recruitment and retention of officers, or the safety of the public. Our main goal is to ensure our families have a safe place to live and can live their lives without fear. By making sweeping cuts to the pay and benefits of officers, it is increasingly hard to keep officers on the streets and not out looking for a job where they are not constantly lambasted in the media.

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