San Francisco likely to drop cops’ ‘double-dip’ retirement option 

click to enlarge Still on the job: Police union leaders say ending the DROP program will cause a rush of retirements by SFPD officers. (Examiner file photo) - STILL ON THE JOB: POLICE UNION LEADERS SAY ENDING THE DROP PROGRAM WILL CAUSE A RUSH OF RETIREMENTS BY SFPD OFFICERS. (EXAMINER FILE PHOTO)
  • Still on the job: Police union leaders say ending the DROP program will cause a rush of retirements by SFPD officers. (Examiner file photo)
  • Still on the job: Police union leaders say ending the DROP program will cause a rush of retirements by SFPD officers. (Examiner file photo)

A voter-approved measure meant to keep veteran officers in the Police Department by allowing them to "double dip" by drawing a pension and a salary at the same time could soon be retired.

The Deferred Retirement Option Program allows retirement-age police officers to continue working at the department while collecting their pensions in a special account. A recent Controller’s report found the program costs taxpayers $52 million more than hiring new officers through police academies.

That report appears to have killed the program, which was approved by voters in 2008 on the premise that it was cost neutral. Nobody on the Board of Supervisors appears likely to support an extension, according to Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who also sits on The City’s retirement board. Without an extension, the program will expire on June 30.

"I do not support the extension of the DROP program," Elsbernd said. "New police officers are cheaper than old police officers."

One of the reasons the program has cost more than previously thought is because it encourages officers to retire earlier than they would have without DROP. Data provided by the Retirement Board on officers that have retired through the program shows at least 37 officers out of 168 — about one-fifth — who entered the program didn’t stay in DROP till the end, which could be one, two or three years depending on rank.

One officer, for instance, left DROP eight months before his three-year term was up and got a payout of $244,482. Meanwhile, one homicide inspector stayed in the DROP program for less than five months and retired with an extra payout of $53,000, records show.

Prior to DROP, approximately 12 percent of officers age 55 with 25 or more years of service would have been expected to retire, according to the controller’s report. Since DROP, 33 percent of these officers have elected to retire or enter DROP, the report said.

Police Officers Association President Gary Delagnes is pushing for the Board of Supervisors to extend the program another three years.

If the program is ended early, 300 officers will rush to enter by the deadline, meaning the Department will have a total of 563 officers retire over the next two to three years, Delagnes has said.

Those retirees would have to be replaced by new recruits in order to maintain a charter-mandated 1,971 active duty officers. That would require at least 18 academy classes in the next three years at $1.7 million each, according to Delagnes.

"If they discontinue the program The City will see catastrophic effects on the staffing levels of the SFPD," Delagnes said last week in a letter to rank-and-file officers.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

 

By the numbers

169: Officers who have enrolled in DROP from July 1, 2008 to Jan. 1, 2011

114: Officers currently in DROP

55: Officers retired out of DROP

$14.5 million: Held for officers currently in DROP

$6.9 million: Paid to officers who completed DROP

Source: S.F. Employees Retirement System, San Francisco Controller’s Office

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Brent Begin

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