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Police fill council chambers for support

Wearing shirts reading 'I support public safety,' members of union say turnout is timely in light of 9/11 anniversary.

September 08, 2010|By Mona Shadia, mona.shadia@latimes.com

COSTA MESA — Members and supporters of the Costa Mesa Police Assn. showed up en masse at this week's City Council meeting in hopes of finding support for their contract positions in difficult budgetary times.

Filling the council chambers, they appeared as a sea of white T-shirts that read, "I support public safety" in capital letters.

"In honor of this holiday, I wanted to recognize the accomplishments and sacrifices for all those who give their lives to public safety," Officer Allen Rieckhof, the association president, said Tuesday, the day after Labor Day. "This is especially important because Sept. 11 is right around the corner. Sept. 11 is a fitting reminder of how important it is to honor those who hear shots being fired and run towards the shots rather than away."

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Costa Mesa has been in the process of negotiating contract agreements with its five employee associations.

Last year, police agreed to a 5% furlough, which saved the city about $1.5 million, Rieckhof said.

On Aug. 31, that agreement expired and the three-year employee contract also expired.

The City Council met in a closed session on Tuesday to address the employee contract and gave directions on how to proceed to city management — information that has not yet been made public.

"I think that everyone is working very hard to find a practical solution to the budget crisis," Councilwoman Katrina Foley said. "I think the employees are loyal and definitely understand the economic circumstances that we're in. But at the same time, they are also concerned about their own economic circumstances."

Rieckhof said his colleagues are reasonable people, who want to help the city balance its budget.

"We're open to any suggestion to do our part and help the city out," he said in an interview Wednesday. "We're not opposed to anything, we're reasonable people. We're going to look at the numbers and make a good decision, I don't want to see anybody get laid off, but I also don't want to see anyone lose any pay when they don't have to."

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