Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A little follow up from last week, and the situation brewing at D.P.S.

Food For Thought 5-18-07

Hi friends, this is Harry Blalock; General Manager for radio stations KZMI & KCNM. It’s that time once again to take a look at the issues of the week, and to offer some Food For Thought.

This week I have several issues that I want to touch on, and am having a hard time trying to decide where to start. I guess the most logical is to deal with a little bit of clean up from last week. I got an unusually large amount of feedback on the topic of getting some new people to run for office as independent candidates. Everyone but one person thought the topic was great and very enlightening; they had no idea just how easy it was to run for office and what the qualifications were. The vast majority of them commented that they were sick of the political parties, and the kind of candidates they tend to endorse and support. They were also tired of the traditional style of campaigning that happens here, and agree that they would be much more likely to vote for a candidate who is independent and doesn’t do the typical pocket meetings and signs. It is important to mention here that well over half of the people who made these comments were indigenous locals. One person told me they disagreed with me on the importance of parties, that she believes we have to follow the parties and let them select the candidates for us. But then in the next breath, she said that our system has failed us miserably and we need to get some new candidates in who will actually try to fix things.

I believe that this election will be an election of change; I honestly can’t see people retaining the politicians who have let them down and failed them miserably. Honestly are you really willing to put people back in just because of family ties, even though they have shown repeatedly they don’t have the communities best interests at heart? Are you really willing to vote for legislators who reduced your pay by 10%, but weren’t willing to take the cuts themselves even though they gave themselves the Austerity Friday’s off as well? If I were a government employee, I would be especially outraged at that kind of arrogance and insensitivity. They outrage me anyway, even though I’m not a government employee, and can promise you that not a single one of them will get my vote. The real key here to change in the coming election is getting some good, viable independent candidates willing to put their names on the ballot. You won’t have to campaign to get my vote, just clearly tell me what you plan on doing that will be different. I believe that’s what the majority of voters will be looking for in this coming election.

Next topic, let’s talk about the petition circulating among the police officers to remove the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, Rebecca Warfield. I need to start by saying I have not seen the petition, and honestly I have no interest in seeing it. This is not the first time the police officers have tried such a stunt, they did it with Mark Williams as well. And because their efforts resulted in the Governor’s firing of Williams, they have decided to try it again. It is my understanding that the police officers are claiming that there is an organizational breakdown and procedural breakdown. Now it was true that Williams didn’t have a police department background, he was a career military man. Some of the police officers claimed he was too militaristic, used too much bad language, and I’m guessing hurt their feelings by requiring them to get off their backsides and do their jobs. For example, some of them preferred to sit in their air-conditioned cars watching the chaos at stoplights during the power outages. They didn’t seem to want to get out and actually have to direct traffic, even though that would have made it much safer. Williams wouldn’t stand for such a thing and actually demanded that they get out of their air conditioned cars, stand in the heat for a couple hours, and direct traffic, thus avoiding potential accidents during power outages. How dare he demand they actually do their job and promote traffic safety? Of all the nerve, no wonder they demanded he had to go. By the way, in case the sarcasm has gone over your head, those last couple sentences were dripping with it.

And now we have Rebecca Warfield, an attorney with no police department experience either heading up the Department of Public Safety. She also seems to expect them to do their jobs, but she has taken it a step further even, she is demanding they get it done with no overtime. Instead of letting the officers double their salary through excessive and abusive overtime, Commissioner Warfield is trying to put through another class of cadets who will be able to help fill some of the holes in a staff short department. She has been given orders from her boss, the Governor, to cut the department’s budget, and one of the quickest ways to do that is to cut out all the overtime. It’s no secret that DPS has been extremely abusive in the amount of overtime that was claimed in the past. I remember a couple of the examples I looked at, the officer would have had to work 20 hours a day, 7 days a week to justify the amount of overtime he was being paid. Obviously there were some problems there, and the fact that it was being allowed by those in charge was also a huge problem that the last administration never wanted to address. I will be the first to point out that the $17,000 salary for a police officer is ridiculous, it is a disgrace really. It’s no wonder that the officers tried to get as much overtime as they possibly could when they were being paid such a ridiculously low salary. Again, this is something that should have been addressed by the legislature a long time ago, but no, that bunch was too busy trying to figure out how to keep their own salary and avoid the cuts they were inflicting on everybody else. But I can definitely understand why the police officers would be unhappy at only making $17,000 a year and not getting any overtime now. But again, let’s lay the blame where it truly belongs, and that is on the legislature, not on Commissioner Warfield.

I have no doubt that Commissioner Warfield does things differently than her predecessors had, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing considering the way the department had been run for years. In years past people had been promoted and given positions based on their political party affiliation and family ties, in many cases even though they had no training or qualifications to do the job. Honestly, I can’t see Commissioner Warfield operating that way, and I would expect that she would attempt to rectify as many of those situations as she could. But that doesn’t make the officers in those positions very happy, and I can see where they might want to get rid of her and try to get one of the gold old boys back in that position.

The real question here is how the Governor will handle this latest coup attempt. The last time he gave in to the officer’s demands and removed Mark Williams from the position. Did the officers have legitimate concerns that the Governor felt compelled him to remove Williams? Possibly, but the Governor never really make the reasons behind his decision public, so it is purely speculation at this point. I did make it a point to ask the Governor at the time what he would do the next time the officers decided they didn’t like their boss and tried circulating a petition again. He responded that they had better never try it again, or the next time there would be a number of police officers looking for a new job, and he would never tolerate that kind of behavior on the force again. So here we are again, with a petition signed by over 80 police officers seeking to have the Governor remove Rebecca Warfield from her position. So will the Governor cave in to the pressure from the officers once again, or will he clean house in the department like he said he would do if they ever tried this again? I believe that Rebecca Warfield is doing the best she can in that position with the limited resources at her disposal, and I would hope that she would be backed up and given the support she deserves.

I’m Harry Blalock, thanking you once again for giving me a generous slice of your valuable time, and allowing me to share my Food For Thought.


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My commentary that airs on radio stations KZMI - 103.9 FM & KCNM - 101.1 FM