San Bernardino Police Officers Association (SBPOA)

The Challenge:

Through potentially drastic layoffs and budget cuts, and a ballot measure that threatened to reduce accountability at City Hall, the SBPOA has repeatedly turned to Cerrell Associates to lead its public affairs efforts and achieve success in a challenging political environment.

Faced with a $9 million budget shortfall in 2009 and a $24 million deficit in 2010, the City of San Bernardino repeatedly targeted the San Bernardino Police Department for deep and harmful layoffs. The SBPOA retained Cerrell Associates to quickly develop and implement a communications strategy designed to educate decision-makers and the public about the proposed cuts' impact on public safety services citywide.

In November 2010, San Bernardino's Mayor and City Council placed a citywide charter reform initiative on the ballot, Measure C, to grant them the authority to appoint the City Attorney, City Clerk and City Treasurer. All three positions were elected by San Bernardino voters. Cerrell Associates quickly developed and implemented an independent expenditure campaign, including message development and a hard-hitting direct mail program, to educate high-propensity voters about Measure C's negative consequences.

Key Cerrell Activities:

  • Developed messages and materials for all activities to quickly educate City decision-makers, the public and the news media, and build a broad base of support for the SBPOA’s positions.

  • Conducted survey research of likely San Bernardino voters and prepared an analysis of San Bernardino's budget and current spending practices. These materials enabled Cerrell to craft a research-driven public affairs campaign designed to favorably position the SBPOA during the budget crisis and municipal elections.

  • Led a comprehensive media training session for the SBPOA board members to prepare them for interactions with the news media, community leaders and elected officials.

  • Wrote and placed numerous op-eds by SBPOA President Rich Lawhead in the San Bernardino Sun and Riverside Press-Enterprise regarding the harmful impacts of the City Council's proposed budget cuts and explaining how voters would lose the ability to hold City Hall accountable if Measure C passed.

  • Coordinated a news conference and rally on San Bernardino City Hall's steps with SBPOA members, the Peace Officers Research Association of California and community supporters before the City Council meeting where proposed budget cuts were discussed. This rally was covered by several print publications as well as local affiliates for NBC and ABC television.

  • Developed and distributed news releases on the press conference/rally, as well as the SBPOA’s vote of no confidence for the SBPD leadership and the SBPOA’s response to the proposed budget cuts.

Results that Speak for Themselves:

Cerrell Associates' strategic communications plan, hands-on tactical assistance and campaign management helped the SBPOA consistently achieve success throughout all phases of our work. The City Council ultimately decided to withdraw its plans to initiate layoffs and furloughs for rank-and-file police officers, and San Bernardino voters overwhelming defeated Measure C by a 63 percent to 37 percent margin. The SBPOA was able to effectively communicate with key decision-makers and the public at large, influence policy that directly impacted public safety, and position itself favorably for the future.

Ultimately, and with Cerrell Associates' guidance, the SBPOA has strengthened its position at City Hall, in the press and with San Bernardino stakeholders. Whether it was a critical and time sensitive crisis management matter in local government, or a campaign issue requiring experienced outreach and voter contact, Cerrell Associates was equipped to handle the situation with professionalism and produce successful results.