I write in strong opposition to the Rhinelander Professional Police Association’s forming of a political action committee (PAC) intended to “endorse local candidates for city office in the upcoming spring elections” (Star Journal, 1/24/18).
The Rhinelander Police Department gets its respect and authority in this city not because officer wear guns, but because the people trust their integrity and commitment to service without favoritism. Remember, most elections are roughly 50-50. So the RPD, which has the trust and confidence of nearly 100 percent of the population today, will, by picking winners and losers in an election, temper the confidence of nearly half the citizens who don’t support ‘their’ candidates.
The police department has a union to support its causes, unlike other city departments (water, street, etc.). As such, very few employees in other departments got raises this year while the unionized officers got across-the-board increases, and will for the next three years.
And what about their special interest activities while on duty? If the PAC does go forward, can we count on the chief to assure us that not a single city resource (officer time, computers, phones) will be used for this political activity?
As was shown in the recent wage study, the RPD has among the highest paid officers in the state for a city our size. The two new officers who recently joined the RPD left their Vilas County jobs paying roughly $47,000 per year, to get roughly $56,000 at the RPD. Oneida County pays about the same as Vilas.
Multiply the difference in pay times 17 officers times 10 years and you’re well over a million dollars. Point is the city taxpayers are already paying a whole lot more for what other local departments get the same exact services from the exact same officers for a whole lot less. Why the need for a PAC to further the spread?
Of the 17 RPD officers, there are perhaps two or three that choose to live in the city of Rhinelander. The proposed PAC is a special interest group not representing the city, city residents or taxpayers.
This has nothing to do with disrespecting the officers in any way, but rather with the tactics being used to try to shape the council and commission that oversees them. Leave that to the voters without your interference, please.
I call on fellow citizens, the Police and Fire Commission, and especially the Mayor and Police Chief, to take steps to reign in this activity and take the RPD out of politics and salvage the trust and respect the department has worked so hard to achieve, and deserves.
Christopher Rog, Rhinelander