‘Dire financial situation’ results in reductions to police benefits

The usually safe streets of San Carlos could see a rise in crime as a result of recent reductions to police retirement benefits, according to the city’s finest.

While the Police Department appeared to have survived a recent round of sweeping cuts to city services, local lawmakers this week approved rolling back the age police personnel can receive retirement benefits from 50 to 55 — a measure the city says will only apply to new hires and could save $500,000 annually on its ailing budget, said Brian Moura, assistant city manager.

“We have an extremely dire financial situation, and it’s only with that and a really heavy heart that I support this,” Mayor Brad Lewis said just before the City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday in favor of the measure.

But some of the city’s police officers say the new retirement terms — which would affect any police officer hired on or after July 23 — are another blow to an already whittled down police force and could impact public safety.

Gilbert Granado, president of the San Carlos Police Officer’s Association, said the Police Department will now have a hard time retaining and attracting quality officers. Granado said he doesn’t see how a skilled officer would accept a job in San Carlos when neighboring cities offer better benefits.

“We will see officers come here for training and then move on … or we will have to settle for [hiring] officers that couldn’t get hired elsewhere,” Granado said.

City officials say neighboring cities have implemented or at least considered reductions to retirement benefits. Brisbane, Millbrae and Daly City have implemented similar retirement amendments for their police and fire departments and in Hillsborough, Pacifica and Burlingame, to just the fire departments, Moura said.

In San Carlos, the Police, Fire and Parks and Recreation departments account for nearly 70 percent of the general fund, he said.

Last month, the City Council opted to spare five police positions worth more than $800,000 as it grapples with a $2.7 million shortfall and a downward economy. Positions for three police officers, a detective and commander faced the chopping block, city officials said.

“You get what you pay for,” one concerned San Carlos resident said. “Or, in this case, what you don’t pay for.”

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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