VANGUARD: Here we are on the day of the Oakland Police Officers' funeral. It's a very somber day, but before me, I have retiree Paul Salerno, Badge #1989. Thank you for being here today Paul. I think when I asked you to be an interviewee you were surprised about it. So, your last name is just like the town in Italy. Are you of Italian descent?
SALERNO: Yes I am to both. I am surprised to be interviewed and I am Italian. Before we get started, I would like to say that my heart goes out to the members and family of OPD. There are some really good people at OPD; to them, I'm sorry for your loss, it pains us all. Anyway, I usually just say I'm a New York Italian, but it's actually not New York-it's 45 miles east of Manhattan. I was born and raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut. You say "Connecticut" to people and they think of rolling country farms and estates, and those things do exist. But where I'm from is more like Detroit or maybe Oakland without the good parts. Bridgeport was a very successful blue-collar city like Detroit was, and now it's basically a gritty, ravaged, financially-poor industrial city where all the big companies have left.
VANGUARD: Do you have any family there now?
SALERNO: Not left in Bridgeport, but I have family out in the rolling country farms of Connecticut, so I do have family in the area, but not back in Bridgeport.
VANGUARD: So where do you fall in your family?
SALERNO: I am the youngest of four boys. I was going to make a joke, but I'll just leave it at that. I learned to defend myself early. My oldest brother is 21 years older than me if you want some perspective.
VANGUARD: When did you retire?
SALERNO: January 4, 2007. Time flies-I blinked and it was 30 years later.
VANGUARD: How is it being retired?
SALERNO: If I had known it was going to be this good, I'd have done it earlier. It's good.
VANGUARD: You talk to retirees and they say it's the best gig in town.
SALERNO: It is. It's much better than I realized, and there are a lot of people that I want to thank. When I was a young officer struggling to make a house payment and raise a family, I needed cash in my pocket, and the older POA people were pushing for benefits. They told me that I would be thankful. I didn't see it at the time, but they were right, and I went and personally thanked Carme Grande 15 years later because he's the one that said that.
VANGUARD: It is a wonderful thing. So tell us about you.
SALERNO: I was born and raised in Bridgeport, CT. Starting in third grade I became a product of Catholic education. Went to the equivalent of Bellarmine in Fairfield, CT. At that time it was an all-boys school-Notre Dame Boys' High School run by the Jesuits. You have to love those priests. Their attitude was, "Go out, work hard, play football hard, play hockey hard, have a good time and work hard." I wasn't one of these guys that always knew he wanted to be a cop. The idea didn't even strike me until a friend suggested it. We were both apprentice sheet metal mechanics and we liked our jobs, but we weren't sure we wanted to be crawling in attics and under houses when we got old, like 40! I became a cop back east on July 1, 1974, when I was hired by the New Town Connecticut Police Department. It was a small town with 26 men (no women then) on the PD. Stayed there until 1979; flew out here, tested for SJPD while I was still a cop in CT; got hired and took the wife and moved out here.
VANGUARD: Why San José?
SALERNO: Luck of the draw. It was just timing. It fell into my lap. One night I was working mids in CT and it was getting cold; I found myself a thermometer and it was -4º. I thought, "this is crazy." If I'm going to move to another PD, let me consider climate. I looked in Florida, California and Texas. Back then, Texas and Florida were different places law enforcement-wise than they are now, so I gravitated toward CA and San José just fell into my lap.
VANGUARD: So five years there and 28.5 years here for 32.5 total. Wow!
So tell me about your family.
SALERNO: I'm married to a patient lady, Nancy. We had to get married. I was pregnant! LOL. I have been around the marriage block a couple times. I have a wonderful adult daughter named Angela. She's old enough now that I shouldn't say her age. She and her husband Andy are great kids; about to make me a grandpa for the first time, and I'm excited. I know that's a big thing for you in your life since you have a big family too. Life is good.
VANGUARD: Did you travel once you retired?
SALERNO: I haven't taken any major trips. I've always traveled a lot; I do the motorcycle thing and every June I travel somewhere in the U.S. or Canada with a group called Cal-Tex. A brief history of Cal-Tex; 30 plus years ago Dallas PD sent a bunch of their motor guys to the CHP for training. That first group said, "hey lets get together every year somewhere for a reunion; Cal-Tex!" You don't have to be a copper, you just have to get invited by a member. We now have people who come from all over North America. There are a bunch of us from the San José-Sacramento area, and we convene in March to plan our monthly rides for the duration of the year. I am thinking about heading over to Europe. America and Canada are wonderful but there's more history to see in Europe.
VANGUARD: So you retired as an officer. Is there a reason why you never promoted?
SALERNO: A couple. At the time, I wasn't certain I wanted to be responsible for other people's actions and then around '91, I went from part-time single dad to full-time single dad. That's when I went to day shift patrol. Day shifts and I never got along even though most people remember me from days. Swings was my favorite. I went to days in order to provide structure and routines for my daughter. You've got to be there to raise your kids. Otherwise even good kids will get in trouble. Hillary's wrong. A village is nice, but you need parents to raise a kid.
VANGUARD: Okay, so you were a Connecticut transplant. Did you have to go through the SJPD academy?
SALERNO: Yes. I forget how many of us there were. It was the Santa Clara Valley Regional Training Academy then; our TAC officers were Mike Amaral and Press Winters. In my academy group you were either Spanish-English bilingual, prior law enforcement or both. I apologize for names that I'm not going to remember, but some academy folks included Rudy Agerbeek, Greg Korver, Jose Montez, Guy Bernardo, Bruce Tony, and Mark Messier was there-Tom's younger brother-Tim Knea, Bob Bennett, gosh there are a dozen others I just can't remember right now.
VANGUARD: How was it coming from another department? A little rough for you?
SALERNO: Yes and no. My attitude at the time was, I gave up a five-year job and moved across the country, so failure was not an option. We did have a bunch of people that failed out of the academy, and more so in the FTO program. It was actually a lot of fun though. I worked really hard, and got the Top Cop award because my attitude was such that I had to succeed. Laws were different and the training was better here, so I went in with a positive attitude.
VANGUARD: I think attitude plays a big part in almost everything we do.
SALERNO: Yes, and the educational difference also showed. I went to a state-wide municipal academy in Connecticut and not to disparage anything there, they had different music to dance to. It was 30+ years ago, but that academy was run at a state level for small municipalities. The priority was to have a bare minimum functioning level because there were no standards for these 162 towns and cities in the state of CT. I still remember there are 162 towns and cities in CT. Like I said, love those Jesuits.
VANGUARD: Once you came over here and went through the academy, who was your FTO?
SALERNO: My primary FTO was Tom Brewer on swings, and…gosh, I actually forget some of these guys.
VANGUARD: Maybe I should ask Bob Moyer because he doesn't forget anything.
SALERNO: No, Bob doesn't forget anything. He amazes me with his memory. I wish I had it! Let's see, George Sachtleben, Danny Ortega, Bruce Ady came in there a little bit one day as a fill-in and old Dave Stangle-Watry. (laughing) You know, he's the only guy that when you screwed up, you'd still be laughing as you got a not up to standard. He is a funny man.
VANGUARD: Stangle is a good guy. So once you got through the FTO program, what was your career about?
SALERNO: I worked in specialized units a bit. I was definitely not a bureau person. I was an FTO for a few years, went back to patrol, went to street crimes for three years-that was pretty much a new unit, it was still forming and evolving back then. Being that it was forming and evolving, we would branch off into new areas quite frequently without the approval of the DA or the department, and we created some interesting times. It was a lot of fun. I worked with Dave Debarri and Dewey Hosmer and learned a lot from them both. Great guys. So street crimes from '83 to '86, then I went to narco from '86 to '89 and worked with Dewey again and Tom Wheatly. They are just two of the very talented people I got to work for. Dennis Guzman too. I learned a lot from them- their entire job was to supervise Louie Espinera and me, and that was a full-time job. Can you believe it? One sergeant was given the responsibility of supervising two people.
VANGUARD: And that was probably a tough job to do!
SALERNO: That's my point! That's why the span of control was two. I spent two years just buying dope with no investigations. They gave me a beat-up Monte Carlo and a newer camaro and a beat up Harley Davidson and I used to buy dope and write paper for people. I spent my last year in narco in the "out-front" position, and that was when narco and BPU were separate entities, unlike NCI today.
VANGUARD: Who was the head cheese in narco?
SALERNO: The day I walked in it was Tom Shigamasa for about two weeks; Bill Lansdowne for most of the time I was there, and then Ron Rosso on my way out.
VANGUARD: How was Lansdowne to work for?
SALERNO: Bill treated me very well. He liked me and I got along with him. Louie and I made some very good press for the department when we busted out our buy programs. We were buying a lot of dope, all over the place from all kinds of people.
VANGUARD: Speaking of Louie, he looks like he's STILL under the influence.
SALERNO: Louie and I were the two bad guys and two buy guys. He and I became very good friends and we still are to this day…I'm digressing. Let me go back to Bill. Bill is a very intelligent, articulate man. I've lost touch with him since he went to San Diego. He's a good man. I got into a couple of jams-they weren't career-ending, but because they were not mistakes of intention, rather learning mistakes- he was able to smooth things over for me and soften the blows.
VANGUARD: Back to Louie Espinera.
SALERNO: (laughing) I love that boy. By the way, since I'm an East Coast guy, I sometimes use terms that people in California raise their eyebrows at, but that's just me. Louie's a good man, we had fun together and spent way too much time at the Café Meridian together.
VANGUARD: Did you guys use an old, beat-up Cadillac? I ask that because I pulled you guys over on the Eastside.
SALERNO: I don't even remember that, and it won't be the first or the last time. Even if I remembered that, I don't remember that.
VANGUARD: It was 2am, and you had just come out of that club on Alum Rock and King, and you came out of the back parking lot. It was a Mexican club, and I'm a midnighter sitting at Mark's Hot Dogs. I'm blacked out and eyeballing what's moving, and I see this beat-up Cadillac come out of this parking lot, and I see like five guys in it. The Cadillac moves down the street without lights on, and I get on that car and make the stop. I have another unit coming by, and as we walk up on the car with my flashlight, who do I see driving the car but this guy with bright green eyes. I say, "How you doing, sir?" and it finally dawns on me what's going on. He says, "Oh, I'm doing fine," and I say, "Can I see your driver's license and registration?" So he gives it to me and says, "What's wrong, officer?" I say, "You aware you exited the parking lot without your lights on, but it appears they're functioning fine." I look in the back and see all these freaking dirt bags so I give him back his stuff and say, "Sir, have a good night. Drive carefully. Everything's fine." He says, "Thank you, officer." So we back up and I remember that whoever was with me says, "Dude, we could have pulled them all out." I said, "No." (laughter) I said, "We'll just leave it at that. There's a reason for that." You were probably in the front seat there, Paul.
SALERNO: (laughing) If I was…there were times when Louie and I got pulled over and we were working, and there were times we got pulled over and we weren't working. (laughing)
VANGUARD: I think you guys were working, so we'll leave it at that.
SALERNO: First time Louie ever showed up at my front door, I was new in narco, and my wife at the time looked through the peep hole and said, "What have you done? There's a criminal at the front door." (laughter) Louie has the look.
VANGUARD: And still does. Louie was my TAC officer in '81 - '82 when he was with the Sheriff's Department. He had been with the PD and went back to SO. We had a class in that academy that was unreal. That was when SJPD was pushing 60+ officers into an academy. We were out at Agnews and Louie was out there. He was a great guy and funny as heck.
SALERNO: During that time period, Louie, Bobby Cisneros and I from the Sheriff's Department were not a good combination to have together. (laughter)
VANGUARD: Knowing Bobby, I think you're right.
SALERNO: Let's leave this topic. There's nothing to be gained from here.
VANGUARD: So you spent some time in narco and left when?
SALERNO: I left narco in '89. My last day in narco I was cleaning out my desk and there was a scanner going in the office. The Simpson-Silva shooting occurred that day. A scene I don't think I will ever forget. After that I went to swing shift patrol with Tony Biskup, my beat partner was Steve Winiger. Another funny guy! You put Steve and Will Battaglia together and it's just hysterics. During the swing shift time period was when I transferred from part-time single dad to full-time. I went to days in District Mary and I stayed on days until 98 when I went to swings on motors, which is like modified days. I really enjoyed motors. I worked for Rick Botar, Dickie Fairhurst, Bruce Raye, and Keith Little. Quality people with their heads screwed on correctly. There was a bunch of quality officers there, and some serious RMF's. Those RMF's will know who they are and what that means. Then I went back to patrol for a couple of years and into traffic as a radar car for a few months. I had knee surgery with complications and ended up on crutches for seven months; Article 39'd for 18 months and then retired. That's the Reader's Digest version.
VANGUARD: What were briefings like back then?
SALERNO: I was hired in '79 and we'd just opened the new building.
VANGUARD: Were the briefings downstairs in the old special ops place or where the processing center is?
SALERNO: At least part of it. In 1979 it was a different world. I don't want to sound like a dinosaur; when I was a young rookie, the old guys would talk about the good old days and how us young'uns didn't know what we were missing. Well, today is some new officer's "good old days," and in 30 years that officer will be talking about 2009.
Briefings were totally different; the world was different. Everyone smoked cigars, cigarettes, pipes in briefing; drank coffee, ate, and told jokes. Nothing was off-limits then-sexual jokes, racial jokes. People went out laughing at the end of briefing, and I think that's a good idea.
VANGUARD: I think so too. I was part of that late '80's batch when I came over from the SO. Some of the things that were said and some of the skits that were put on by the sergeant-you'd come out of the briefing holding your stomach from laughing. If you stood against the wall, it didn't matter who you were-even the captains dished it out. You get Will Bataglia behind the podium…
SALERNO: It was a hysterical time. Lots of jokes, lots of laughs. First day of briefing on swings, I remember thinking with my naiveté of being young-I had my rook book and I figured all the senior officers would sit up front. I grabbed a seat in the back row, and those seats are for senior people. A senior officer walks up to me and says, "Kid. You're in my seat." And I said, "Oh?" He said, "Rookies sit up front." That same briefing they made us stand up and introduce ourselves and this was 1979. There were a few women there, but in 25 words or less we had to say why we wanted to be a policeman. I introduced myself and my badge number, 1989, and Keith Lowery yells, "1989? That year's never gonna get here." They were all 1400 and 1500 badges. It was a different world. I'm glad I've gotten to experience all the changes that have happened in the last 30 years.
VANGUARD: That was a good bunch of guys. Do you still see any of them?
SALERNO: Your first five years here is a blur. You're trying to figure things out. I see the guys in my own seniority bracket; the other ones you see them around, but you didn't have the interaction with them because of seniority. They're all cordial, but you tend to see people you were more involved with. If you started bidding your teams based on your seniority if you were a 1900 badge, there weren't a lot of 1700 or 1800 badges on your team.
VANGUARD: So when you called in for a bid position, they would tell you where you'd be going.
SALERNO: My first bid position-and I remember I was thrilled to choose between swings and mids-was when call-in's were a half-day affair. When I left it was two full days.
VANGUARD: My first bidding time-they were laughing by the time I called. I said, "Reyes, 2649 calling in for bid," and all I heard was a bunch of guys laughing.
SALERNO: Lee Wilson was there the first time I called. I said, "Salerno, 1989," and he goes, "Do you want midnights or midnights?" I said, "You're kidding," and he said there was one swing team. Ironically enough I bid that swing team and ended up having a lot of fun. It was my own academy class-Greg Korver, Rudy Agerbeek, Tim Nay-on that one team along with Lee Jett, Rod Gomes and Dave Jenkins. No supervisor-no sergeant. We got away with a lot of stuff! It was just a co-lateral assignment from the District 4 sergeant, and he didn't pay much attention to us so we had a lot of fun and learned a lot.
VANGUARD: It's kind of like that right now with a co-lateral sergeant from District King, District Lincoln…
SALERNO: Of course there were fewer districts then, so the teams were larger; the average swing team was 7-8 people. The bigger teams were 12 people, so the span of control was bigger-probably too big to adequately supervise.
VANGUARD: Okay. So now that you're retired, what are you doing with your spare time?
SALERNO: I'm amazingly busy. I ended up getting involved with the retiree association but hadn't planned on it. Someone tapped me and we started talking about it, so now I'm involved in it, and that takes a lot of time. I'm a husband, father, soon-to-be grandpa, homeowner-those things all take time. I do the motorcycling stuff. I took up golf…well, wait. I own golf clubs. I go on a course and I swing these clubs but I'm not sure you can call what I do playing golf. Fishing with some friends-heck, I'm busy. I try to get a little exercise in and the day's gone. Not enough time.
VANGUARD: So about the retirees association-on the fliers it says, "The Association of Retired San José Police Officers and Firefighters." What's Billy and Spanner?
SALERNO: I don't know when that came about-it's before my time. When you retire, you're no longer a cop or a firefighter. This is the only organization out there trying to help you. The "billy" refers to a billy club; the Spanner refers to the wrench that is used to open a fire hydrant. That's where that comes from. When you retire, as a retired cop or firefighter you now have very similar interests as opposed to when you were working and you were often in conflict. Everything's changed. You're not there anymore. The city is not obligated to negotiate with you since you're not an employee.
VANGUARD: To be part of this organization, do they seek me out or how do they recruit members?
SALERNO: We'll be doing more outreach, but when you're retired, you will sit down on your last day with your analyst…and by the way, the city does a very good job of providing you with someone to help you with your retirement selections. I have to give Retirement Services big kudos. You're so overwhelmed. You have a career of 20-30 years that's ending; you don't know what's coming, and it's like buying a house in the sense that you get all these documents that need to be signed. You are given the opportunity on that day to join the Retiree Association. Lots of people don't even know what it is, and all they know is there's a POA and a PBA and the Retirees, and they get confused. The PBA is a social organization; the Retiree's Association is an association of retired cops and firefighters. We are actually a Political Action Committee-a PAC-in the sense that we collect dues and we are political. The reason for us is to act on behalf of retirees. All you have is whatever rights you have under existing contracts, and sometimes you might get an umbrella from one of the current organizations. For example, the POA recently opted to pick up a larger percentage of retiree health care costs. Here's a benefit where the umbrella of the POA has sheltered the retirees, but that's due to the benevolence of the POA; they had no obligation to do it. They did it because they realize that they too will be retirees someday soon. So we lobby politicians on issues that are important for retirees and those include your health care benefits, medical benefits, the Supplemental Retirement Benefit Reserve…in a nutshell, if the retirement fund is doing well, you get a supplemental 13th check. It is based on how long you've been retired. You earn points, so those that have been retired the longest receive the largest supplemental payment. Until you understand the numbers, you don't get the magnitude of that. Someone who retired in 1982 and went a full 30 years is getting 75% of what was then a good salary. I don't even remember what it was back then-maybe $30k. They're only getting $20k per year, so that supplemental benefit is huge.
VANGUARD: How many people do you have on your board of directors?
SALERNO: I don't really know. I think we're currently at 12. We're going through structural changes, so we've had some flux. I'm a Director at Large which means that people from the membership come to us with their issues, or concerns. We present the members' issues to the board. The board discusses them and votes on resolutions, and then we take it to the general membership for their approval. It's not always that easy in that we might make a recommendation that isn't approved by the general membership. That's pretty much what the POA does too, right?
VANGUARD: It is. What kind of funding does your group have?
SALERNO: It's strictly the monthly dues of $15/month. That recently went up and can come out of your retirement check automatically. I thoroughly recommend that all retirees join the Association; it's only $15/month and it's less than your active POA dues. I'm not trying to disparage the POA. I'm just saying that $15/month is not a lot when you consider that we're fighting to maintain, if not improve, your retirement status. We meet the 2nd Thursday of every month. There is a Board of Directors meeting in the morning, and then a lunch meeting afterward. It would be nice to see a larger representation of police. Currently there is more fire, and the reason is pretty straightforward. We have the PBA which I'm a member of-I recommend you become a member if you're not. You can be a member of the PBA while you're working, and you can be a member of the Retirees' Association while you're working as well. The cops have the PBA but fire has no social organizations like us. I think that cops confuse the PBA and the Retirees' Association and don't bother to join the latter. If you're planning to retire in the near future, or if you're recently retired and not yet a member, please contact our organization and we'll get you an application. We'd like to have more members in our organization. The day you retire, you're given an application by your retirement analyst.
We have a Web site that is linked through the POA. If you go to the POA Web site, you'll find us. All the directors are listed including me-send me an email at that link and I'll respond.
VANGUARD: That's an important thing for our officers to know about. You guys have luncheons and PBA stuff, and the Keith Kelly has events going on too, so there's a lot going on, and it's important for our retirees to know about your association. You indicate that you're more political, so what have you done lately? In the Vanguard coming up, I have some photos of you guys with Nancy Pyle; the Corned Beef and Hash event, and the "No on Recall" campaign. What areas do you attack within the city?
SALERNO: We have been involved and instrumental in all of those items. Further back than that-in the short time I've been there, so since mid-2007-there has been an ongoing process to try and erode our health benefits. Not that the city is intentionally trying to erode those benefits for that purpose, but they are trying to save money. We're trying to protect your dollars from the city, because they'll take that money from people with whom they don't have to negotiate contracts with, like the retirees. The onslaught started a few years back with trying to alter the definition of the lowest cost health care plan. We've been fighting that issue since I've joined, and it's still ongoing. The city has effectively changed our health care benefits by changing what they negotiated with the active employees. Now the cheapest medical plan has co-pays. We fought that off for two years, and even though we couldn't fight that completely, the co-pays are less than the city had proposed.
Like every PAC, we try to encourage the politicians to have an open ear and an open mind to issues that are concerning to us. So we get involved in their concerns, like the Madison Nguyen recall. Politics make strange bedfellows and things change. The situation three years ago will not be the same today. The fact that Madison might have been recalled on one small political issue, which in some people's minds-including my own-is a minor issue, is not a very democratic process. For example, we helped Madison to stay in office, and we hope in the future that she remembers our help when issues come up that are relevant to retirees and their families.
VANGUARD: How are you received by the City Council? Openly or is there some concerns with the members?
SALERNO: There will always be issues and concerns just like if the Local 230 or a POA member walks into a city councilperson's office. I would like to think that we're at the point where the Local 230, the POA and the Retirees' Association are working closer together than ever before, and we are actually becoming a stronger outfit by working in conjunction. As retirees, we are starting to obtain the same clout as the other groups. Everyone's stature is improving through that collaborative effort.
VANGUARD: So your voice is being heard.
SALERNO: Right. I live in the City of San José, but many of the younger officers today do not. Once you retire, they don't have to negotiate with you, and if you don't live in the city, you have no vote on any city issues. However, if you're a member of the Retirees' Association, we're able to influence city issues on your behalf. That's one reason why all retirees-or soon-to-be retirees-should part with $15/month and let us advocate on their behalf. There are a few social functions for the Retirees'. Once a month there's a luncheon. There's a Folsom BBQ, and in August there's a local BBQ, and they're great functions. These are inconsequential to us, though, since we have the POA and PBA. There's more opportunity for socializing, which is a benefit, but as a retired cop, you need the political action of our Association.
VANGUARD: That said, it's an opportune time to rally some new members.
SALERNO: To the readers: Please consider joining. The timing is fortunate because at our last meeting, Stan Wilson and I decided to help with recruiting more police retirees into the Association. You don't have to physically attend. If you want to come to the meeting, that's great. But please just join so that your dues are put in the pot to help protect retiree benefits.
VANGUARD: There has been some tit for tat in the Merc with some issues that were published in last month's Vanguard about one of our council members-an ex-retiree and San José PD. I think in this Vanguard that's coming out, you wrote an article about it. What's the issue?
SALERNO: I don't want to alienate anyone or stir the pot, but I don't want to run away from the issue. The Retirees' Association is having some issues with Councilmember Pete Constant. I knew Pete for the relatively short time that he was here. Pete has become a politician, and in doing so has forgotten about the San José PD and he is more concerned with his image as a city councilperson than he is about the well-being of any retired police officers. He is making publicity; I'm not saying that he's trying to actually hurt a retiree. He's making publicity in the Merc by putting his name out there at our expense. He brought up the issue of the Supplemental Retirement Benefit-does he really want to take it away from us? I hope not! But in today's economy, it's politically expedient for him to look like he's counting all the city's beans. That's great-do that. It's your job. But don't do it at our expense to make it look like these are windfall things for the city. In the Billy and Spanner, there's an article by Pete, and he talks about his primary obligations, including his fiduciary responsibility toward the city. He refers to the retirement funds as "city money." Well, yes, it's city money. But it's our money too, and that's what he's publicly pushing aside. These are our monies; we contributed into them for 20-30 years, even more for some people. It's a contractual obligation and in my opinion, Mr. Constant is creating negative publicity for the cops that are actively working and who are retired. He makes it sound like we are taking advantage of the city, and we're certainly not doing that. We worked hard, and we're asking for our dues. It's all about image. I don't think he's trying to hurt us. Mr. Constant is just trying to make himself look better in the eyes of angry taxpayers who are frustrated at the current economic conditions.
In 1998, when kids were coming out of college and not going into police work because they could get a job right out of school making $125k/year, and cops were making $60k, no one cared about our pension plans then because they were making more money. Well, the economy has changed and all of a sudden our structured, defined benefit pensions and our salaries are looking very pretty to people who are losing their jobs. Mr. Constant is jumping on that change in public opinion-which is temporary-and making us look selfish and greedy. We are not. We just want what we were promised.
VANGUARD: If you want to be one of us, go and apply. We have plenty of openings and opportunities. I appreciate you clearing the air, because we do read a lot of it, and there are people with whom Pete is close, and he is a disability-retired cop from SJPD. Lately there has been a lot of bad press, and I think you verified that the POA has nothing to do with this.
SALERNO: Yes. Pete dragged the POA in on an issue that they had nothing to do with. It was just our Retirees' Association. Pete is just not listening to us. There will always be differences of opinion. Right here in this building, the retirees elected Dave Bacigalupi to be on the Retirement Board. He won by 70%, and it's written into the city charter that the city council can approve or disapprove what our vote is on electing representatives to the City Retirement Board. To my knowledge, never in city history has the city council shot down our candidate. In this room before the vote, I said to Pete, "Is it true that regardless who wins this election, that you will not vote for Dave B. should he win?" He confirmed that to be true. Mr. Constant is not even listening to us anymore. He's not hearing our concerns, and to say that he will stand against our voting membership is an abuse of his position. That was the last straw.
VANGUARD: What are you planning on doing in the future?
SALERNO: Well, I'm going to learn how to play golf because I still haven't figured it out. I'll keep doing what I'm doing. I'm enjoying life, I'm busy and I'm accomplishing a lot. For me, it's just doing what I'm doing.
VANGUARD: Did you ever think you'd be sitting on the Retirees' Association Board of Directors?
SALERNO: I spent three decades trying to be apolitical, so no. I never did. So to retire and then jump into politics is a surprise. I'm trying to help the retirees in SJPD, including me. I'm not St. Paul-I'm just trying to get everyone a fair shake.
I want to get back to one point in my career. I did the day shift patrol for a long time, and ended up being senior day shift patrol. I had a lot of fun there. There's a certain esprit de corps that comes with being a 25-year guy that's still working the street. I want to thank people who honored and appreciated that.
I also wanted to talk about when I was in motors as a senior guy. Some people were upset when I went in because my seniority made everything topsy-turvy. All of a sudden I was the #2 guy in seniority and I was bumping others out. There were no gals at the time, so I'll say I worked with a great bunch of guys and had a great time in motors, and that's what I want to say about my whole career. I have worked with great people in a great organization. I have met super-qualified people and have learned so much. There is no utopian life, but if you want to be a cop, San José is the place. It is as simple as that. I want to thank everyone that I worked with. Like all of us who are retired, you may or may not be the same person you were when you started 20 or 30 years ago.
Here's my advice: When you are done with your career, regardless of what you have done, walk away knowing you did the best you could, you didn't violate your personal integrity, and if you can walk away and say that you still like people, you like to laugh and tell jokes and not be angry, you did it. Don't walk away angry. This job can kill you emotionally if you let it.
VANGUARD: I agree. One last thing. If you had a rookie in front of you right now, what would you say?
SALERNO: Big Mike Lowery said on my first day of briefing, "1989? That year's never gonna get here." Well that year has long come and gone, and I'm still here. That's what I would tell a 4,000 badge number. Be patient. Pay your dues. There are times when you need to pay your dues to the organization, and sometimes your seniority will negatively impact you. Later on, it will be a positive for you. Work hard. Be honest…a 4,000 badge. What would I say? Have as much fun as you can while you're doing it. Go home at the end of the day and love your family.
VANGUARD: Well said. Thanks again-it's been a pleasure. I know that taking this time out of your day has been tough since you're busy, and I thank you for this opportunity. I've learned a lot about your Retirees' Association, and when my time comes, my application will be in. If I can be a participant or be of service to your group, I look forward to it.
SALERNO: Thank you, Juan. Thanks for the nice things you've said, and thanks for the time and the effort and for being so cordial. Mostly, though, thank you for allowing me to reach out and explain about the Association. We'd really like a higher level of involvement to let us be a more collectively unified block with the POA and 230.
VANGUARD: I agree, and I thank you for the amount of work that your association does for our officers. My appreciation goes to you and all the other big hitters in the association. I'm sure we'll keep seeing your face and name throughout the city, and I look forward to being a part of your organization and helping out our fellow officers. That said, thank you, sir.
SALERNO: Thank you, sir.