Unions representing Fresno police officers and Fresno County sheriff’s deputies have been skeptical of efforts to consolidate public safety services in the Fresno metropolitan area. That hasn’t changed with the latest move by the Fresno City Council to hire a consultant to do a cost-benefit analysis of consolidation.
But the unions may be looking at this all wrong. Imagine how powerful a combined police/sheriff union would be if the forces were actually merged into a single law enforcement agency. This super-cop union would be even stronger than the separate Fresno Police Officers Association and Fresno Deputy Sheriff’s Association.
FPOA leader Jacky Parks says he’s worried that the union’s bargaining rights wouldn’t be respected in the consolidation move. I’m not so sure. A super-cop union would have elected officials terrified, and they’d likely give in to many contract demands.
Union leaders are rightly concerned that consolidation would cut the number of officers, affecting their safety on the streets and their job security, as well as the clout of the two unions. I think the public would demand that a consolidated force provide at least the same number of officers. Why would voters support such a massive change if public safety would be lessened?
Those who should be concerned about consolidation are the high-ranking officers in both departments. You wouldn’t need two administrative staffs, with all the deputy chiefs and assistant sheriffs.
There’s always the fear of the unknown and unintended consequences of such a fundamental change. But the cop union that would come out of consolidation would be a powerful representative of officers and deputies — no matter what color of uniform they would ultimately wear.