After six officers were laid off earlier this month, fliers showing the phone numbers and e-mails of City Council members and City Manager Jim Jakel were distributed around town and shown on the Antioch Police Officers Association website.
The website also ran a YouTube video earlier this week slamming newly-elected council member Gary Agopian. The video, “Gary Agopian Fooled Us All,” pointed out that Agopian ran his campaign on public safety; then turned around and voted for the layoffs.
The video was removed from the site on Tuesday and deleted from YouTube. APOA president Tom Fuhrmann declined to comment on the video.
After another round of negotiations Tuesday morning, the city and the police department said progress had been made and ill will reduced. Though Fuhrmann didn’t get into specifics, he’s positive about the direction of the negotiations. “There’s some positive movement being made on both sides, which has been lacking in the recent past,” Fuhrmann said. “We understand that people have made concessions, and we know that’s important. We know that it’s important that we step up and make some concessions.”
Fuhrmann said he would meet with Jakel and Mayor Jim Davis again on Jan. 6. Jakel described the talks as “very productive,” and while he also didn’t cite details, he said both sides have a clear understanding of their position.
After Jakel was authorized to make roughly $500,000 in cuts – manifested in the layoffs – he must slice another $737,000 from the budget. Even then, Antioch will still suffer from a shortfall of about $1.4 million. Police officers agreed in 2010 to give up pay increases and cost-of-living adjustments, but the city is contractually obligated to reinstate those in 2011 if no agreement is reached.
“We want to work together in the best interest of the community,” Jakel said. “The community deserves the best services we can provide.”
Jakel said he’d report back about the $737,000 in cuts and a final update on negotiations with the APOA at City Council’s next meeting, Jan. 11.
Both sides expressed a desire to work toward concessions so that more layoffs can be avoided. Jakel said they’re trying to figure out what’s best for the city – not just right now, but for a year or two down the road.
Acting Police Chief Allan Cantando echoed Jakel’s sentiments. “I’m hopeful that some kind of concessions can be reached so we don’t have to lay off any more police officers,” he said.
Cantando, whom Jakel recently promoted to the role of acting chief following the retirement of Jim Hyde, has inherited a tough situation. The department is operating on more than a 35-percent vacancy rate, and Jakel is unsure if Cantando’s previous position of captain will be filled if Cantando is named permanent chief.
Jakel said a decision on Cantando’s status won’t be made for a couple months, after the budget has been settled. According to the city manager, a recruiting process would cost roughly $20,000 to $25,000.
According to Cantando, as the reduced police force works to protect the city, officers will need more input and interactions from citizens. “We’re obviously going to have to reprioritize the calls we respond to and the types of crimes we investigate,” Cantando said. “We need people calling in and reporting crimes and suspicious activity as they see it.”