San Bernardino Charter section 181-A

    Yesterday, I wrote about the campaign and election to set minimum wages for San Bernardino Police Officers in the form of section 181-A.

    The opponents, who, other than Councilman Timothy Sheehan were not named contemporaneously in the San Bernardino Daily Sun, said that the moves would be costly, particularly in light of earlier promises to hire more police officers to meet the growing needs of the growing city.

    According to a budget proposal detailed in the San Bernardino Daily Sun on July 15th  under the line item “Police department Charter Amendment,” an increase for the next fiscal year (1939-1940) attributable to the amendment was $11,188.89.  San Bernardino Daily Sun, July 15, 1939, Page 11.

    When the City passed the budget on July 18th, the total increase was roughly $75,000 over the 1938-1939 budget.  The Police Department’s estimated expenditures in 1938-1939 were $66,930.01.  The FY 1939-40 amount budgeted was $83,916.39. That figure doesn’t include the traffic division, which was also impacted by 1939’s Charter Amendment No. 1, but it also involved hiring three new officers. A charter amendment in 1937 allowed the City to hire more officers. The traffic division’s budget increased from $16,998.51 to $19,115.30.

    The total 1939-1940 budget was $615,810.88, a 14 percent increase over 1938-39’s $540,614.22.  How did the City propose to pay for the increase?  Through a tax increase from 18 cents to 21 cents.  San Bernardino Daily Sun, July 19, 1939, Page 11.

    If you recall from yesterday, the union advertisement said there was plenty of money in the traffic court fund to pay for the increases.  The budget presented in the newspaper only gave expenditures, and not revenues.  While there was a tax increase, the amount directly attributable to the charter amendment, assuming no tax increase was needed to pass a budget equal to FY 1938-1939, would be $11,188.89 (charter salary increase)/$75,196.66 (budget increase) = 14.88%.  So, of the 3 cents (presumably property) tax increase, 4/10ths of a cent was attributable to the Charter Amendment.

    The questions not answered so far are would the San Bernardino Police Department faced attrition if they had not received raises, would they have been able to recruit qualified candidates for the new positions, and whether, without the charter amendment, they would have received raises through collective bargaining versus putting minimums in the Charter.

    Over on the law blog I wrote about The Roots of San Bernardino Charter Section 186: Chapter One.

    Here is some political context for the Charter Amendment, which added to the then-existing 1905 Charter section 181A. Section 181A was an embryonic Section 186, setting minimum police salaries.  The text is on the legal blog.

    The question submitted on the ballot, as shown in Ordinance 1621 passed on February 14, 1939,  was

    1.  Shall Proposed Charter Amendment No. One, adding a new Section entitled Section 181-A, providing for and establishing a minimum rate for salaries in certain classifications in the Police Department, be ratified?

    Ordinance 1621 was not without a dissenting vote: Councilmen W.N. Herkelrath, Dr. George Shafer and Howard L. Holcomb voted for it, Councilman Timothy Sheehan voted against it, and Councilman Atwood was absent.  “Councilman Sheehan, who has consistently voted against placing the salary amendment on the ballot, again voted in the negative when the charter election ordinance was presented. San Bernardino Daily Sun, February 15, 1939, Page 5.

    One day before the election, the Sun ran an article about the proposed measure:

    Voters Will Ballot On Police Salaries

    Effort Being Made to Amend City Charter So Higher Wages Can Be Fixed

    Voters of San Bernardino will ballot on Monday on salary increases for police officers and determine whether minimum salaries shall be fixed in the city charter.

    In the past such salary matters have been determined by the mayor and common council.

    Members of the police department, acting with the permission of the civil service commission, city council and mayor, have conducted an active campaign in behalf of the measure.


    Opposition to the measure has not been organized.

    The measure seeks to provide ultimate minimum salaries as follows: Patrolmen, special officers and plain clothes officers $175 per month; desk sergeants $190, patrol sergeants $190, motorcycle officers $185, traffic sergeants $200.  The beginning salary for patrolmen, special officers and plain clothes officers would be $135, advancing $5 each six months until the minimum of $175. The beginning salary of motorcycle officers would be $155, advancing $5 each six months until the minimum of $185.

    Present salaries are: patrolmen, $145 after one year of service; motorcycle officers, $160 per month; desk and patrol sergeants $150; motorcycle sergeant $175.

    The increases would be patrolmen with five years seniority $30 per month, desk and patrol sergeants $40 per month, motorcycle officers $25 per month, traffic sergeants $25 per month.

    Arguments in favor of the proposition have generally taken the following line:

    The San Bernardino police salaries are below those in such cities as Colton, Redlands, Riverside. The largest cities, such as Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, Pasadena, start their patrolmen at $190 to $200. The larger cities all have pension or retirement systems, which San Bernardino does not have.  Sergeants in larger cities are paid $250 per month.

    San Bernardino police officers are required to furnish their own equipment, such as uniforms $43, shirts $7.75, guns $34, handcuffs $11, billy or baton $4, ammunition, shoes and other incidental, Sam Browne belts $10 to $12, telephone in home. Motorcycle officers pay $25 for a pair of pants.

    Pay is stopped after seven days of illness.

    The occupation is extremely hazardous.  Insurance rates for police officers are beyond their means.


       Arguments mot frequently heard in opposition, include:

    Such matters as salaries for police officers should be fixed by the mayor and common council and not frozen into the city charter where they could be changed only by a vote of the people.

    The adoption of the proposal would mean an increase in taxes, which would be considerable in view of the fact that if police officers are to have such increases all other city employees are entitled to similar treatment.

    The city council should assemble the police salaries paid in all of the smaller cities of Southern California and adjust the San Bernardino salaries accordingly, after informing the public what salaries are paid in other cities.

    The charter amendment ignores the question of retirement for officers beyond normal age limits.

    The salaries proposed are higher than those earned by most taxpayers in private employment.  San Bernardino Daily Sun, March 19, 1939, Pg. 7.

    In what appears to be a full page advertisement purchased by the amendment’s proponents in the same issue of the Sun, the proponents stated with a banner headline “CITIZENS SUPPORT POLICE MEASURE.”  In column one is the headline “APPROVAL VOICED BY TAXPAYERS – Citizens Committee Sees No Increase in Tax Rate If Measure Voted – LEADERS IN FAVOR-Underpay and Dangers in Police Work Require Adjustments, Belief.”

    Column one continues:

    Active support of Police Amendment No. 1 which involves a standard rate of pay for members of the police department is finding wide, enthusiastic support, according to James L. King, prominent local attorney and chairman of the citizens’ committee furthering the ballot measure.

    Expressions from business, church, fraternal, labor and civic groups have pledged support to the proposition, according to the committee.

    Leaders from may walks of life have given expression that a favorable vote should be case. Outstanding among the open statements of support are the following from prominent San Bernardino citizens:

    W. Ronald Brown, Base Line Electrical contractor: “I am heartily in favor of Amendment Number One, the Policemen’s salary measure. Many reasons could be advanced but mainly I support it because it is economically sound, and socially right. I am asking all of my friends and associates to vote for this measure.”

    Rabbi Norman Feldheyn [sic, should be Rabbi Norman Felheym]: “A prerequisite for law enforcement without corruption is a law enforcement department whose members are paid a decent living wage. An affirmative vote on proposition No. 1 will help to acquire the type of law enforcement we need in San Bernardino.”

       William H. (Billy) Baldwin, former chief of police: “I have always been in favor of good wages for good police officers. It is deplorable that our officers are paid such a small wage.

    “During my thirty years as a policeman in San Bernardino, and as chief of police– two and one-half years-I was faced with danger hundred of times. Today, even though our department is equipped with the latest implements to combat crime, our  policemen face greater dangers than we did years ago. Our present criminals, dope crazed and with brains clouded with liquor, often kill and maim at the slightest provocation.

    “The San Bernardino police department today is the most efficient in the history of San Bernardino. In order for that efficiency to continue, it is necessary that proper wages be paid, therefore I strongly urge the passage of the Police Salary Amendment, Proposition No. 1.”

    Rea Smith, Secretary, San Bernardino Central Labor Council: “The contention of labor organizations is that all labor should be worthy of its hire. Since our Police department is greatly underpaid, I strongly urge the passage of Proposition No. 1.”

       T.W. Duckworth, Attorney: “I believe the members of our Police department should have higher salaries than they are now receiving.”

    Rev. F.W. Rollins, President Ministerial Association: “Speaking as a private citizen I strongly urge the passage of Proposition No. 1. If we are to maintain the present standard of high efficiency of our Police force, an adequate wage must be paid the personnel.”

       Wm. T. Hunter, Manager Towne-Alllison Store No. 1. “Charter Amendment Number One must pass if we are to retain and replace men of high calibre on our police force. I urge support of this important measure.”

    John K. Tibbits, former publisher: “Twenty years of observation and study of our city’s police force and systems, convinces me beyond any shadow of doubt the city’s interests would be best served if a favorable vote is given Amendment Number One. Efficiency, character requirements and educational standards are encouraged and follow in the footsteps of well paid, satisfied employes [sic]. The police officers of this city have long been at a disadvantage with other lines of employment. It is high time that this situation be corrected and a new impetus given the popular movement for higher public service and appreciation.”

       Stanley Mussell, former District Attorney: “I believe that the police officers in San Bernardino are underpaid and I therefore favor the adoption of City Charter Amendment Number 1 establishing a minimum salary.”

    The remaining portion of the parade are largely “TRAGIC PICTURES TELL THEIR STORY.” This includes a picture of Special Agent Buford A. French, of the ATSF Police, who was shot to death on November 11, 1932. The picture shows Special Agent Buford A. French lying dead below a train, with his gun nearby.  According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, he was shot by a hobo.  Another is a graphic photo of the dead “bandit” who shot Officer Thompson in Needles in 1935.  Another shows the car who hit Officer Milleman on Foothill Boulevard on February 12, 1939. Officer MIleman, according to the caption, was still in the hospital.

    The middle of the pictorial features a short piece: “Every Boy Wants To Be A Policeman” . . . and so did Teddy Moore, above, 10 year old son of Mrs. Dallas Moore, widow of the late officer, Henry F. Moore, who was killed in the line of duty while an officer in the city Police Department, New Year’s eve 1937. Officer Moore was just 31 years old when killed.”

    “Teddy’s father like all other officers of the Police Department, was burdened down with the excessive drain upon his small salary, to keep up uniforms, equipment, household expenses for several children, pay on insurance premiums, which came high. But, when tragedy hit this family and the bread winner was taken while in the line of duty, Teddy’s mother, Mrs. Dallas Moore, found that there was not sufficient money from the small insurance policy to meet expenses and carry the children through school and give them the necessary things essential to growing children.

    “Mrs. Moore found it necessary to seek employment which takes her away from the home eight hours a day and all because of the fact that San Bernardino Policemen are not receiving just compensation for the services and protection they are giving to the taxpayers and general public.

    “Don’t let such a thing happen to your boy, if he happens to become a policeman when he grows up. Vote Yes, Amendment Number One Policemen’s Salary proposition, and insure better conditions and protection for those who protect you.

    The advertisement states that the Police Department is self supporting, and that “Amendment No. 1 will not increase the expense upon the taxpayers is shown by records of the Police Court, over which Judge Donald E. Van Luven presides. Fines and forfeitures over a period of years, disclosed by the record offer ample support of the income the city derives from law offenders.

    The advertisement concludes with the story of four (then) active police officers who were injured on the job.

    There didn’t appear to be any organized opposition to the measure. The San Bernardino Police Officers Association bought the ad mentioned above, and another the next day offering rides to the polls.

    After election night, the count stood at 5,173 yes votes, and 5229 no votes.  There were 138 absentee ballots to count.  The law allowed up to a week for them to come in, and they were counted on March 27, 1939.


    Turnout for the election (it’s not clear if the number includes the absentee ballots was said to be only 11,322 for 18,576 registered voters), which was 60.94 percent. The sources for those numbers (with different figures of registered voters), comes from the Sun on March 22 and 23, 1939, both on page 13.  The final vote was the measure passed by three votes.


    Yes 5,264
    No 5,261
     Total 10,525

    The vote wasn’t decided until  seven days after election day, when the final vote was canvassed at City Hall.  The Sun sets the scene like this:


        While members of the city council tallied the absentee voters’ ballots, 20 police officers and leaders of the move to obtain increased salaries for members of the force paced the floor on the council chamber, anxiously awaiting the final result of the amendment.

        Fearing that it was impossible to obtain the required majority of the absentee votes, most of the police officers had abandoned hope for passage of the amendment.

        Every one of the 32 negative votes caused a furore [sic] in the council chamber. Ninety five of the absentee ballots contained yes votes, while 10 persons did not vote on the amendment.

    . . .

        Sergeant A.L. Luce, chairman of the committee in charge of the amendment, issued a statement following the announcement of the final result.   He said:

     “The police officers wish to express their deep gratitude to the voters of the city of San Bernardino and pledge to continue giving the public service commensurate with the increased salaries.” San Bernardino Daily Sun, March 28, 1939, Page 11.