WPBPD boycotting SunFest

By John Bachman - bio | email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - West Palm Beach Police went head-to-head with City Hall Monday night, saying city commissioners are mistreating them during negotiations. Now, the officers are refusing to work security for the city's largest event.

"We don't want a raise. We don't want any increases in anything. We're just trying to fight to maintain status quo," said Police Sergeant Louis Penque.

Penque's also the departments union president. He said they are having a hard time doing just that.

The city is facing another year of massive budget cuts. Last year, officers had pay and benefit cuts. This year, they are looking at the same thing again. And, now, they are fighting back.

So, they are planning to boycott SunFest -- refusing to work overtime security details, and, instead, will show up to picket the music festival. "We work in the busiest municipality in Palm Beach County. We have the most violent criminals in Palm Beach County, and, now, we are becoming the lowest paid."

West Palm Beach Police chief Delsa Bush says she doesn't know about the planned protest, but as a last resort, she will order officers to work at SunFest to ensure safety.

"Whatever it takes, we'll have the man power necessary to ensure a successful event," Chief Bush said.

Mayor Lois Frankel and city commissioners said they hope it doesn't come to that. "You know, we've had to tighten our belts. We're not increasing our benefits, and, you know, we hope they understand that."

"That's their choice - I wish they would choose a better, more grown up, way to go forward," City Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell said.

Right now the police union and the city seem to be miles apart on their contract for next year and their plans for SunFest.

The county police union is also asking officers from other agencies to join the boycott. "We understand there's problems with money right now, and we are willing to work with them, but they aren't willing to work with us," Penque said.

Meanwhile, Police Chief Delsa Bush says the budget for next year looks like everyone else's in the city -- bad.

SunFest runs April 28 - May 2.