A battle is looming over a voter-approved program that allows police officers to engage in a form of “double dipping.”
The Deferred Retirement Option Program, commonly known as DROP, gives veteran officers the chance to continue to work with their full salary past retirement age while also collecting their pensions. The pension payments are placed in a fund that becomes available to them after two or three years depending on rank.
The program is set to expire July 1 unless the Board of Supervisors approves a three-year extension.
That extension hinges on whether the cost of the program is less than or the same as hiring new officers through Police Academy classes. A controller’s report set to be completed this week might analyze the program’s cost effectiveness.
Similar programs across the country have been under fire for increasing cities’ pension costs.
San Francisco’s DROP program was approved by voters in 2008. At the time, the Police Department was having trouble recruiting officers, said Micki Callahan, The City’s director of human resources. But with the economic downturn, dozens of officers across the Bay Area are looking for work.
“It’s a public policy question of whether you want to, you’re essentially paying for the same work twice,” Callahan said. “That’s not really what a pension is for.”
If the program is discontinued, officers would face a July 1 deadline to enroll in the program.
Police Officers Association President Gary Delagnes predicted a wave of eligible cops — those who have been on the force for 25 years or more — would join the program. As a result, he said, hundreds of officers would be retired fully in two to three years and leave the department en masse.
“If DROP is not renewed, these people would be crazy not to go in it,” Delagnes said. “It would be their last chance to go in for an incredible amount of money. I would expect to have 600 gone within two to three years.”
Police Chief Jeff Godown did not express an opinion about whether the DROP program was a success, but he did say there should be a way to re-evaluate each participant every year to see if they were still effective police officers.
Other departments, such as Los Angeles, have that ability, Godown said. Such a change would take another ballot initiative.
How the SFPD program adds up:
113 Currently enrolled in DROP
51 Enrolled and have left DROP
493 With more than 25 years in Police Department
313 With more than 30 years in Police Department
$1.7 million Average cost of Academy class
50 Cadets in average Academy class
Source: Police Officers Association