Disgruntled police officers have called for Chief D. Clayton Mayes to be fired, and they are willing to forgo pay raises next year to make it happen, officials said.
Eighty-six of the city's 123 sworn officers cast no-confidence votes against Mayes last week, said Sgt. Mike Hadley, president of the Downey Police Officers Assn. Thirteen supported the chief, and the remaining officers abstained or do not belong to the union, he said.
"The contract concessions are to show (that) we take this very seriously," Hadley said.
The city's two-year pact with police officers expires June 30, and the union planned to ask for a 7.5% pay increase in upcoming negotiations, union negotiator Mark Reid said. Such a raise would cost the city about $600,000 annually. But officers said they would not press for the 7.5% pay hike if the city gets rid of the chief.
The offer comes at a time when the city is trying to trim its general fund budget to compensate for anemic tax revenues and other shortfalls.
Despite the recent developments, City Manager Gerald M. Caton and the City Council still support the chief. They said the Police Officers Assn. has failed to provide evidence indicating the chief should be fired. The city manager and the mayor were irritated by the offer of contract concessions.
"It has no place whatsoever, negotiating the replacement of a top manager in exchange for salary considerations," Mayor Roy L. Paul said.
Caton called the proposal "ludicrous."
"What they're in effect saying is someone should be terminated for money," Caton said. "It gets to the point where the (union) is running the department and using money as a weapon."
Mayes said, "They're beating me with a stick, and I'm trying to do the right thing."
Tensions between Mayes, 49, and many of his officers have been building for months.
Mayes, a longtime Downey resident and former Los Angeles Police Department captain, was appointed chief in December, 1989. His appointment was spearheaded by a friend, former Councilman Randall R. Barb. From the start, officers grumbled about the political ties that they claimed were a key element in Mayes' appointment.
The department's problems were publicly aired last year, when the Police Officers Assn. released the results of a membership survey.
Sixty-four of the 103 officers who then belonged to the association responded. Overall, the officers rated department morale below average--2.7 on a scale of 10. Fifty-one respondents blamed the chief.
They rated management credibility below average--3.4 on a scale of 10.
In interviews, officers faulted the chief for quickly promoting two friends of former Councilman Barb. They also blamed the chief for creating an atmosphere of distrust among the rank and file as he built his administration.
"The chief is more politically motivated than is necessary for the position," the Police Officers Assn. said in a statement released last week.
But the chief has denied the charges of favoritism, saying the officers who were promoted were the most qualified. He said some officers are unhappy because they were not promoted. Others resent his management style, which includes tighter controls on detectives' field work and on narcotics and other evidence held by the department, Mayes said.
"If a chief of police were removed because of a ballot box, the next chief wouldn't be able to run the department either," Mayes said. "There are many unpopular decisions to be made."
So far, police service has not been affected by the dispute, all parties agreed. Sgt. Hadley, the union president, said sickouts and work slowdowns are not being considered.
Caton, who has met with union officials and Mayes on various occasions, said he sees no quick end to the dispute.
"Nobody is happy about this dispute, and we've been racking our brains to resolve it to everyone's satisfaction," Caton said. "So far, all of our efforts have been a failure."