Peace Officers Group Rejects Final Contract Offer From County Officials

VENTURA, Calif. – Leaders of the Ventura County Professional Peace Officers’ Association have rejected a final labor contract offer from county officials.

Don Douglass, president of the association, said the proposal failed to recognize the new risks and responsibilities of officers in light of state prison realignment.

After the passage of state prison reform, the Public Safety Realignment Act, in 2011, nonserious offenders can be released from prison and returned to the county where their last crime occurred to be monitored by local probation agencies instead of state parole agents. Probation officers have regular, often unscheduled, contact with ex-convicts who have violent pasts, posing new threats to the officers, according to the association.

Douglass added that county officials neglected issues of recruitment and retention facing the Ventura County Probation Agency and Department of Airports.

Both parties have been trying to reach an agreement on a three-year labor contract since May of last year. The ongoing efforts included 18 formal bargaining sessions, officials said.

The Ventura County Executive Officer’s office Thursday evening sent out a statement saying that while members of the association’s patrol unit, which includes officers who work at the county’s parks, airports and harbor, ratified the offer, members of its probation unit did not.

County officials believe the offer was comprehensive, addressed across-the-board increases and addressed the impacts of realignment.

The offer apparently was generally similar to one established with seven other county unions and would have resulted in salary and benefit increases.

Catherine Rodriguez, assistant county executive officer, said the latest revisions were the last and final offer on the table.

“We hope that probation will hear the county’s offer and that they will reconsider it,” she said.

Association members called the proposal “ridiculously insufficient” and “irresponsibly ignorant of the challenges faced by Ventura County professional peace officers.” Members claim that county officials have not discussed officers conditions fully and failed to understand their changing working conditions.

Douglass, a longtime employee of the Probation Agency, has said the department has changed dramatically since realignment; there should be better recruitment and retention of probation officers; more firearms and safety training; and competitive wages to attract worthy candidates. The association ran newspaper advertisements hoping to educate the public on the risks probation officers now face.

The association represents about 300 probation, corrections, airport operations and harbor patrol officers, as well as park rangers.

Members will continue providing public safety services to Ventura County residents while taking their message to the public for support, officials said.

From The Ventura County Star