Tucson's city manager apologized today for a picture that was called disrespectful by the Tucson Police Officers Association.
The picture, which was used in a PowerPoint budget presentation to the mayor and City Council members, apparently was used as a light-hearted illustration of budgetary strains.
The Tucson Police Officer's Association called the picture "inappropriate" and "offensive."
"All of our membership I have heard from, they were deeply offended. It shows the regard they hold us in. It was lampooning us, lampooning the situation they have put us in with budget cuts. Our budget's been cut year after year after year, then they put up a picture like that," said Rick Radinsky, grievance chair at TPOA.
The picture shows a police officer from a different agency, with what appears to be a siren strapped on top of a bike helmet. The officer is wearing a badge with a black band, a symbol of an officer in mourning. Below it the caption states: "Budget Problems? Take what you got and make it work."
We spoke to some city council members and got their thoughts on the picture.
Ward 3 councilwoman Karin Uhlich said she did not notice it at the time of the presentation, as she was focused on the numbers, but up on closer look at the picture she felt it was inappropriate.
"I think the fact that the officer is clearly in mourning with the badge marked to me is sort of something that would heighten sensitivity," said Uhlich.
She went on to say she hoped the city managers office would apologize for offending anyone who felt it was disrespectful.
Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik said he noticed the picture right away and was extremely offended.
"It mocks the situation we're in. We're in a budgetary situation where we're asking our first responders to go out on the streets and risk their lives," said Kozachik.
While some city officials said the issue was being blown out of proportion by the TPOA, and it was simply a light attempt at humor during a serious presentation, TPOA officials said it sent a message about the attitude city hall had about paying for public safety.
"They should use a little better judgement in the future. We all have the same goal. We all want a safer city. We all want a better city and this is counter productive, it's almost childish," said Radinsky.
The city manager's office released an apology on Wednesday afternoon. In a statement, Richard Miranda said, "I apologize to those that found the photo distasteful, to include those in the Tucson Police Department. We value all employees in the organization, and it is especially important to communicate this message during times when we are asking them to do more with less."
The TPOA posted on its Facebook page, "Marie Nemerguth, the City's Budget Director, thought it would be funny to insert the above picture in a PowerPoint presentation to the Mayor and City Council members dealing with the FY 2014 budget. … We are curious what she finds funny about this budget situation."
The Tucson Police Commanders Association also released a statement to us, saying:
"As a result of yesterday's Council Session the Tucson Police Commanders Association is concerned that the focus of the budget shortfall appears to be directed primarily at the police department. Further evaluation of the figures presented is certainly warranted and necessary to develop a budget adequate to meet the service needs of the community."
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