Time to drop the double-dip DROP giveaway 

The Board of Supervisors should just keep its hands off the Police Department’s Deferred Retirement Option Program — so cutely abbreviated as DROP — and let it meet a well-deserved death by expiration on June 30. That would save deficit-ridden San Francisco $52 million, according to a recent controller’s report.

Not only does DROP cost millions of dollars, but it failed to accomplish what the public was promised it would fix.

San Francisco voters approved DROP in a 2008 referendum, when prosperity still prevailed and the Police Department was finding it difficult to hire new recruits. DROP was marketed as being cost neutral. The public was also assured that The City’s most experienced officers would work longer if they were allowed to accumulate their pensions in a special account while still on salary.

But DROP statistics showed it encouraged officers to retire even earlier than before, a trend that obviously pushed the costs of the program higher than expected. Prior to DROP, approximately 12 percent of officers age 55 and with 25 or more years of service would have been expected to retire, according to the controller. Since DROP, 33 percent of these eligible officers retired or entered DROP.

Why wouldn’t they take advantage of this rare opportunity? Just by signing up for DROP during its first three-year term, police who already intended to retire soon could scoop up a lavish double payday. They weren’t even required to stay for the full sign-up period in order to cash out big.

Approximately 37 officers out of 168 — about one-fifth — who entered DROP exited the program early — which could be one, two or three years depending on rank. Retirement Board data showed that one officer left DROP eight months before his three-year term ended and received a payout of $244,482. A homicide inspector stayed in DROP for less than five months and retired with an extra $53,000.

The most vocal DROP backer pushing the Board of Supervisors to extend the program another three years is the Police Officers Association. The union argues that if DROP has a final cutoff date, some 300 officers would rush to enter before deadline and the department would lose 563 officers within three years.

All those retirees would need to be replaced by new recruits to maintain the charter-mandated 1,971 active-duty officers — requiring at least 18 academy classes in the next three years at $1.7 million each. That would total $30.6 million — still considerably less than the $52 million that DROP needlessly costs city taxpayers.

The union argument could be recycled every time the program faces expiration. There would always be a last minute sign-up rush whenever DROP meets a final deadline. But The City’s three years of experience with legalized double-dipping proved conclusively that DROP is costing us more to maintain these officers that to train new ones. San Francisco needs to DROP it immediately and recruit a new generation of young police.

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