Mayor offers incentive to police

Citing shortage of officers, Newsom seeks more pay for those who delay retirement

Mayor Gavin Newsom has proposed a salary boost for police officers willing to postpone their retirement — something that could cost The City as much as $800,000 next year alone.

The proposal comes as the Police Department, which already considers itself understaffed, struggles to attract new recruits and is facing as many as 700 retirees in the next six years.

This year alone, 135 police officers have retired. There are 1,694 active officers, according to the Police Department, which falls below the 1,971 staffing level voters mandated in 1994.

Newsom’s proposal is part of a contract amendment between The City and the police officers, which will be submitted today to the Board of Supervisors.

If ultimately approved, beginning June 30, 2007, those police officers of retirement age — which is 50 to 55 — who have worked for 30 or more years would now be offered a 4 percent increase in pay as an incentive to stay on board. A police officer who retires at age 55 or older is entitled to 90 percent of their annual pay as a pension.

Next year, about 200 police officers would be eligible for the incentive, and it could cost The City as much as $800,000, according to Phil Ginsburg, director of the city Department of Human Resources.

“Of course, the criticism will be why are we paying more money to officers to just do their job,” Newsom said.

But Newsom said it was “an unfortunate necessity” since there is a “dearth of new recruits,” a competitive national recruitment environment and a high volume of future retirees.

“The only way we can stay ahead is to keep some of these senior police officers on duty to act as mentors for a lot of these new recruits,” Newsom said. “I just think it’s critical. It’s going to cost us some money. But I think it’s also going to save us some lives.”

The City plans on hiring as many as 700 police officers in the next four years, Newsom said.

“We’re already 300 cops short and we will get a whole lot shorter,” Police Officers Association President Gary Delagnes said. “Eight hundred thousand dollars is a small price to pay to have a fully complimented force.” By keeping on board would-be retirees The City will not have to fill those positions by paying other officers overtime, Delagnes added.

The amendment also grants $5,000 sign-on bonuses for police officers in other jurisdictions to work in San Francisco. In addition, a city police officer who refers a candidate to a police academy class stands to receive $1,000 as a referral bonus.

jsabatini@examiner.comBay Area NewsGovernment & PoliticsLocalPolitics

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