Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

City Targets Police Contract to Stem Attrition | Council Considers Opening Negotiations Ahead of Schedule

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

City Targets Police Contract to Stem Attrition | Council Considers Opening Negotiations Ahead of Schedule

Article excerpt

VENICE

VENICE -- In a move to stop younger police officers from leaving for higher-paying jobs at other police departments, city officials are working to open the police union contract a year early and put in a new performance-based system that would award pay raises based on training.

The Venice City Council will discuss putting almost $164,000 into next year's budget as part of a special meeting at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

"They're in contract negotiations right now; we're very aware of what's happening," Mayor John Holic said Friday. We're very supportive of the police, and we're going to do what we have to, to stem the tide."

When the topic was first broached in the council's June 29 budget workshop, Council Member Bob Daniels was more dramatic.

"You're bleeding," he said, referring to the cost of attrition. "It's costing you more than $160,000 a year."

Venice Police Chief Tom Mattmuller supervises a department budgeted for 61 people, including 48 sworn officers.

Finding qualified applicants isn't an issue, he stressed, but keeping them has been.

"All I'm doing is constantly training people for other departments," Mattmuller said.

Between 2010 and 2016, 14 officers resigned from the department to pursue other jobs -- 13 of those are currently in law enforcement.

Another seven officers or supervisors retired in recent years.

That's created a situation in which about half of Venice's police officers have been with the city three years or less. And, until recently, the department was seven positions down, but four new hires are going through field training and should hit the streets in four months.

That loss of manpower has left the police department stretched thin.

"This is the key," said Det. Rob Goodson, one of the FOP negotiators. "For almost two years, we've been working

routinely at minimum staffing. …

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