The demand that employees re-apply for their jobs came four days before Christmas, and two days after a group of employees met with the director to demand union representation.
Today in San Antonio, even as I write this, Bexar P.O.s are staging a protest at the courthouse asking that the retention interview order be rescinded. One of the employee leaders, Sherri Simonelli, forwarded me her comments prepared for the event, which I thought I'd reprint below:
Sherri Simonelli, Adult Probation Talking Points, January 23, 2007
Good afternoon. My name is Sherri Simonelli, and I have proudly served the people of Bexar County as an Adult Probation Officer for 4 years. My husband is an Active Duty in the Army, and I have two children - Michael who is 14 and David who is 8. Everyday, I and my fellow officers and support staff strive to keep Bexar County and San Antonio safe. As Adult Probation officers we are the ones who work on the frontline with defendants on a daily basis. We are the ones who make sure that they are tested for drugs, pay their fines and are rehabilitated to be more productive members of society.
We stand here today united with members of the community, labor organizations and elected officials to send a clear message to the people of our community and the Adult Probation administration. The taxpayers of Bexar County demand accountability at all levels of government. Not equipping our Adult Probation Officers with the resources they need to keep Bexar County safe is wrong. Being a Probation Officer is a profession, officers should be treated with respect and the lines of communication should be kept open with our management. As Probation Officers, we have made a decision to dedicate ourselves to serving the public. As public servants it’s our obligation to keep our community safe and that is why we stand before you today. The working conditions in Adult Probation are impeding us from carrying out our duties. We would like for Probation Officers and the administration to be able to work as one … unfortunately, our pleas for partnership have fallen on deaf ears. We seek a seat at the table to discuss what makes most sense for San Antonio and Bexar County when it comes to public safety.
At any given time there are 20,000-30,000 cases that Adult Probation Officers manage. We have one of the worst retention rates of any department in Bexar County. Officers are leaving out of frustration over skyrocketing caseloads. It is nearly impossible for a Probation Officer to deal with 140-150 defendants on a daily basis- this is a recipe for failure.
The retention of officers is critical in order for cases involving arson, burglary, and sex offenders to be given the attention they require.
We are here today for a very simple reason: that reason is a better and safer San Antonio. We love our community and our jobs and we will continue this struggle until our voices are heard, because we know that what is at stake is the safety and security of all working families in San Antonio.
We’ve gathered today requesting that the retention interviews initiated by Adult Probation Chief Fitzgerald cease immediately so that we can get back to work and continue to do what we do best, which is keeping San Antonio Safe. The taxpayers of Bexar County have spoken and are behind us, they do not think that mandatory retention interviews of the 430 Adult Probation employees is the most efficient use of taxpayer money. We ask Chief Fitzgerald to make the right decision and stop these mandatory retention interviews and begin to address the issues that we have laid out today.
Thank You for being here in solidarity with us and have a blessed day.