Miami-Dade warns hundreds of police officers to get ready for layoffs

To brief about 400 police employees on potential job cuts, Miami-Dade is booking a hall inside a football stadium.

08/12/2014 4:04 PM

08/12/2014 9:20 PM

Miami-Dade County has put about 400 police staffers on notice that they could be losing their jobs in the fall.

Police brass on Monday afternoon ordered hundreds of officers, sergeants, lieutenants and civilian workers to a mandatory meeting next week at the Florida International University football stadium to discuss staffing cuts mandated in Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s proposed budget.

To be held inside the facility’s 6,000-square-foot Stadium Club banquet hall, the Aug. 19 meeting will offer employees vulnerable to the cuts a look at how the layoff process would work, including advice on contacting creditors and mortgage holders, according to department officials.

“It’s so many people that one-on-one would not work,” said Juan Perez, deputy director of the county police department. “We don’t have that kind of space at headquarters.”

A list provided by the county law-enforcement union shows a broad range of staffers at risk from the plan to cut about 270 positions from the county police force once the new budget year begins Oct. 1. County officials said the list represents about 400 police employees who could be subject to layoffs or demotions because of seniority, though some would not lose their jobs if the cuts go into effect.

“The public needs to know that this list represents a complete breakdown of this community's safety. Each name represents one less officer working to keep the public safe,” John Rivera, head of the Police Benevolent Association union, wrote in an e-mail Tuesday. “We are short as it is and this just shows how reckless the Mayor is when it comes to protecting the public.”

The list stretches on for nine pages, and includes 19 lieutenants, 69 sergeants, about 250 police officers and 60 civilian workers. With a $470 million payroll, the police department represents the largest agency in Miami-Dade in terms of staffing. The department’s payroll costs would drop $9.5 million next year, a 2 percent decline, according to budget documents.

Gimenez says he wants to avoid the police cuts and other countywide layoffs by negotiating new contracts with Miami-Dade public-service unions. He has accused police negotiators of dragging their feet on talks, while the union is protesting Miami-Dade’s tapping the labor group’s former lawyer to represent the county in the negotiations.

Gimenez said on Tuesday that he’s willing to use a different negotiator if it will start talks.

“There is a very good possibility we can avoid a large number of these layoffs, if not all of them,” he said. “But I need the PBA to come to the table.”

Gimenez wants unions to extend current pay concessions, which are slated to expire on Oct. 1, once a new three-year contract begins. He’s also asking unions to agree to new healthcare plans that would let Miami-Dade cut its insurance budget by 15 percent.

While county commissioners backed a flat rate for the property taxes that fund the police department, the panel could still rework the Gimenez budget to cut deeply elsewhere in order to steer more personnel dollars to law enforcement.

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