Sat, Mar 03 2012 12:00 PM Posted By: Tom Basinski
The families of Laura Arroyo, Tom Devine, Pamela Shelly, Anita Carrier, Jose Ramon, and Anthony Kelly were lucky, if you call being related to a murder victim “lucky.” The long-ago murders of their loved ones were solved by the Chula Vista Police Department’s cold case homicide detective.
Cold cases will no longer be solved. Why? Assembly Bill 1028 effectively gutted the part-time cold case guy. Also falling victim to the bureaucratic chopping block Feb. 9 were Chula Vista’s part-time firearms range master and a computer specialist. There may be more terminations in the city, but I only concentrate on the police.
All three cops are retired and drawing retirement pay. But, by working half-time, (960 hours a year) they work for a lesser wage than before retirement. The city does not give them medical benefits, sick or vacation pay, or contribute to their retirement. They are contract employees without civil service protection. They provide valuable expertise. Bottom line: They save the city money and provide excellent service.
I asked Capt. Gary Ficacci, what the department is going to do now. He said, “The same thing we’ve been doing for a couple of years. We’re going to add more duties to already overworked people. Someone will have to take over the shooting range and the computer work.”
“What about cold cases?” I asked.
“Nobody’s going to work them. There’s no spare time for a detective to look at old homicides. They have new cases, and other older cases that aren’t yet cold.
“Our cold case detective developed contacts all over the United States, and even in other parts of the world. He’s very dedicated. When you take a case from the archives and look at it, you’re re-learning history. It takes a long time to go through another detective’s notes, crime scene photos, and lab reports.
“He has to figure out what was and wasn’t done. He has to know if technology exists now that didn’t when the murder happened. It’s not something a detective with his own caseload can take the time to do.”
I called around and at least two other police departments in the county who hire part-timers are affected similarly.
San Diego police and the sheriff aren’t affected because both have their own retirement systems. AB 1028 only affects entities affiliated with the Public Employees Retirement System.
Karon Green, the State Assembly rep I spoke with in Sacramento, said they had sent out a “circular letter” that explained the bill. I told her I had read it and was still confused, as were the Human Resource reps in the other cities I spoke to. She directed me to Brad Pacheco, the public affairs officer of PERS.
Pacheco’s assistant told me it was never the intent that specialists (like cold case cops, range masters, and computer gurus) would be let go. She said the law was enacted so that high-rolling execs like city managers and chiefs of police wouldn’t retire then hang on making big bucks indefinitely. They could only work for one year.
This made sense to me. She told me to have the municipal Human Resources people contact PERS for clarification. I laughed and said it was odd that a columnist on a small weekly newspaper would be the one to clear up a sticky mess such as this.
Kelley Bacon, head of HR for Chula Vista notified me they had already conferred both with PERS and outside legal counsel. Both entities said the retired officers should be let go after one year. What on earth is going on? This is nuts. Someone is not telling the truth, or is mistaken.
If I had my way I’d get PERS in a room with Chula Vista’s HR people. I’d throw the lawyers out and find out the truth.
No one would leave until there was a clear resolution.
I pity the families of cold case homicide victims. They don’t deserve this confusion.
Basinski is a retired Chula Vista police officer and investigator with the District Attorney’s office.
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