Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Attend Tonight's Meeting to Support Our BIPD! [UPDATE]

If you drove past Cornerstone Charter Academy or went online this morning, you may have seen notices about Commissioner Sue Nielsen attacking the Belle Isle Police Department. These notices urge residents to attend tonight's 6:00 p.m. City Council meeting in order to protect our local PD. Playing on resident fears about shutting down the BIPD or the school are common scare tactics around election time in Belle Isle. But Belle Isle elections aren't until March, so something must have prompted today's notices. What's going on?

It was recently announced that beloved Belle Isle officers Dawn Nodzon and Tren Trendafilov will soon be leaving the BIPD. Dawn Nodzon is our City's Community Resource Officer and has won the "Officer of the Month" award an incredible THREE times. Officer Trendafilov is a local Belle Isle resident who has patrolled our City's lakes and streets for years, also winning the "Officer of the Month" award in Belle Isle. Both officers have shown significant dedication to the BIPD over the years, but our officers need jobs with retirement benefits and/or higher pay in order to support their families.

Concerned by this loss of two of our best officers, Commissioner Sue Nielsen called Belle Isle Police Chief Rich Ring last Friday to discuss how the City can do a better job of retaining highly-trained officers. More specifically, Commissioner Nielsen consulted with Chief Ring regarding whether the City's implementation of an officer retirement plan would help solve the retention problem. And while Chief Ring believes that retirement benefits are not the whole solution, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

So how did this discussion of increasing officer benefits become an all-call for residents to attend tonight's meeting and prevent Commissioner Nielsen from attacking the police department? Certainly not from Chief Ring, who would welcome new benefits and/or increased pay for his officers if he had the resources to provide additional compensation, but Chief Ring was also required to report this conversation to City Manager Keith Severns. Regardless, Chief Ring is doing the best he can with the budget he is provided by the City. The 2015-16 budget, as with prior years' budgets, concentrates City resources in upper-level positions at City Hall, especially the salary of our City Manager.

Most readers of the Sun are probably already aware that the Belle Isle City Manager receives well over $150,000 per year in salary plus benefits. But in the wake of losing two skilled officers, it's important to consider the message that this disproportionately large City Manager salary is sending to our valued Belle Isle police officers, who make significantly less than their Edgewood counterparts and receive no retirement benefits. Salaries should be proportional to ability and workload, and it is a tragedy to lose two of our finest BIPD officers because the City is unwilling to allocate sufficient resources to financially recognize our officers' ability and experience.

If you want to support our BIPD officers and learn more about potential solutions to the officer retention problem we face in Belle Isle, please be sure to attend tonight's City Council meeting at 6:00 p.m.!

Disclaimer: Except where specifically attributed to others, these are my thoughts and opinions expressed herein. I don't want this article to be construed as a veiled plea from your trusted Belle Isle police officers for additional benefits or pay, although they certainly deserve it.

UPDATE 12/2/15:

At the December 1 City Council meeting, Chief Ring referenced the Sun's November 3 article about the BIPD, articulating his concern that the above statement regarding two talented Belle Isle officers who would "soon be leaving the BIPD" might be misinterpreted by readers to mean that these officers had already left the BIPD. In case that is so, please be assured that these officers are still with the BIPD for the time being while seeking new employment.

Read more in the following linked article: Belle Isle Officer Retention Update

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