Turlock Associated Police Officers (TAPO) have announced that they have formed a political action committee (PAC) and may choose to issue endorsements in the 2014 November General Election. Currently the PAC holds a fund with a dollar amount they consider comparable to the Turlock Firefighters PAC.
TAPO, which acts as the union for Turlock Police officers, currently has 100 percent enrollment of all 87 members of staff, excluding administrators, and including the positions of Police Officer, Corporal, Sergeant, Dispatcher, Community Service Officer, Animal Control Officer, Neighborhood Preservation Officer, Evidence/Property Specialist, and Detectives, according to TAPO President Turlock Police Sgt. Russ Holeman. Not all Turlock Police Department employees must become a member of TAPO, it is their individual choice.
As a police association and non-profit organization, TAPO has three main functions: to protect the rights of its members and provide them with the best possible legal representation, to negotiate for adequate benefits and competitive wages, and to support the community through donations to local programs and charities. Although it’s often confused with the Turlock Police Department, TAPO members are quick to tell you, it’s a separate organization.
A few years ago, TAPO saw that it would be beneficial to begin a PAC so that they could support candidates they wanted to see in office. To begin a PAC would mean the opportunity to support candidates who support TAPO, for if the association chooses to make endorsements, it may invest financial resources to in candidates of their choice. According to TAPO President, Sgt. Russ Holeman, the TAPO PAC’s fund is looking “pretty healthy,” as dues were increased years ago to support a future PAC when TAPO members saw the “writing on the wall.”
Although Holeman does not serve on the TAPO PAC board, he is a supportive member of the PAC, and notes that the separation is deliberate.
“Specifically because we are in (labor) negotiations (with City Council) and we wanted to separate negotiations from the elections coming up, we specifically made it a point not to have anyone who’s currently in negotiations with the City is not a member of the PAC committee so there’s no conflict of interests,” said Holeman.
Chair of the TAPO PAC, Brandon Bertram, who formerly served as TAPO President from July 2009 to July 2013, now serves as Secretary of TAPO. Bertram formerly worked on negotiations but went off of negotiations so that he could serve on the PAC board
“In the past, Turlock police officers have not had much of a voice in local politics,” said Holeman, a 15-year veteran of the Turlock Police Department.
Recently, Holeman himself has spoken out about Turlock Police Department’s understaffing on behalf of TAPO, expressing his frustration and the frustration of fellow TAPO members in seeing Turlock City Council avoiding the discussion of understaffing and recommendations by the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury to provide better benefits as a way of drawing in officers for hire. He has also been active in the community, for example giving out safety tips for children in a recent editorial.
The police association’s endorsement interviews with Mayoral and Council candidates have not yet officially begun, but are expected to soon. TAPO wanted to wait until all candidates were officially filed to give everyone an equal opportunity in speaking to the PAC about their campaigns. Now that filing deadlines have passed, the TAPO PAC will contact candidates in the coming days to share its endorsement questionnaire.
“We’re just getting off the ground,” said Holeman. “Essentially what ended up happening is several years ago, we changed our dues to coincide with basically some of the new expenses that were taking place and in actuality we increased our dues in preparation to get more involved in elections, because even then we saw that there were certain Councilmembers that were not very supportive of TAPO, and we realized that we needed to put money behind candidates that we want to be elected. And obviously to get people elected it costs money. We increased our dues years ago, we’ve built up a pretty healthy reserve and then that allowed us to initiate the PAC… I would say, we haven’t filed any formal paperwork, with the state as of yet, or wasn’t publicized I guess, but… we are on par with what the fire department has.”
As previously reported on TurlockCItyNews.com, as of the filing period ending June 30, the Turlock Firefighters PAC holds $22,233.17.
“We have a significant amount of money that we’re willing to invest in the elections,” said Holeman.
Holeman shared that the TAPO PAC has not yet discussed candidates they have in mind at their meetings, but did already reach out over summer to meet up with Turlock Mayoral candidates Gary Soiseth and Mike Brem.
The PAC held an informal meeting with Soiseth, but was not able to meet up with Brem yet because he was on vacation.
“We’re waiting to see what everyone has to say,” said Holeman on not yet discussing candidate endorsements. “There obviously is some candidates that are currently running that have voted on issues that have been detrimental to TAPO, and that’s the past, now we are more interested in seeing what they’re going to do in the future. So, we won’t know that until we sit down and speak with them.”
As far as dues go, Holeman explained that about $87 is extracted from TAPO members’ paychecks per month, and some of that money was put towards the PAC. At this time, TAPO does not offer members to opt out (for example, for their dues to only go to the union’s general fund and not the PAC) but Holeman noted that “essentially all the membership voted to increase the dues” years ago in support of developing funds for a PAC. The extra money from the increased dues were put into the union’s savings fund. More recently they moved over some of the money to a PAC account, a dollar amount that they felt “would at least get some attention.”
In the future, Holeman would definitely like to seek a second term as president when his first two-year term expires. TAPO presidents are able to serve two terms, as Bertram did from 2009 to 2013.
“I think we’ve made great strides specifically in this last year,” said Holeman about TAPO, referencing the start of the PAC, heightened use of social media, donations made, and scholarships awarded. “I want to see that flourish even more, and let the public know that… we’re not just the police department.”
As president, Holeman is ready for TAPO to have a voice in politics.
“Officers who are out protecting our city every day bring a unique perspective to the conversation,” said Holeman. “We want to be sure that we’re electing folks who share our vision for a safe Turlock and will prioritize public safety in the city budget.”