Measure aimed at shortage of police officers

Next month voters will be asked to approve a ballot measure that would give San Francisco police officers both a salary and a pension if they stayed on past retirement.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association gathered the 41,672 signatures required to place a city charter amendment on the Feb. 5 ballot to create a “deferred retirement option program,” or DROP.

An officer, who is at least 50 years old and has been with the department for 25 years, would be able to join the program and work for up to three years while continuing to receive a regular salary and benefits. The veteran officer would also be accumulating retirement payments in a special account that would be paid outupon actual retirement. Retirement benefits would not be accrued during the extended time on the job.

The proposed program comes as nearly 600 officers reach retirement in the next three years and the department already faces a shortage of 250 to 300 officers, according to the POA.

The fiscal impact of the deferred retirement program, according to City Controller Ed Harrington's statement in the voters’ pamphlet, would likely meet its goal of being cost-neutral, although he added that because the eligible officers have higher pay rates than new recruits, the program could have some fiscal impact. He also added that the cost of administering the program would be at least $500,000 a year.

The measure has picked up support from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, as well as from seven members on the Board of Supervisors, including board President Aaron Peskin and Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi and Michela Alioto-Pier.

The program has come under criticism from the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, which is recommending a “no” vote.

SPUR argues that it would set a bad precedent for “changes to pension governance” and calls it “double-dipping,” since an officer can earn a salary and a retirement pension at the same time from the same employer. SPUR calculates that a 55-year-old police officer who enters the program while earning $100,000 annually would receive a lump sum of $225,000 after three years.

Mirkarimi said that while he would have preferred to see the program worked out through labor negotiations and The City's budget process, he said it has “merit” if it can help with staffing shortages.

The program would be up for review within three years and the Board of Supervisors could then vote to end or extend it.

Measures on February ballot

» Proposition A

Authorizes the Board of Supervisors to issue up to $185 million in bonds for repair of city parks.

»Proposition B

Allows retirement-eligible police officers to continue working for up to three additional years while accumulating their regular retirement benefits.

» Proposition C

A policy declaration that city officials should “explore and facilitate” acquisition of Alcatraz Island to create a global peace center.

Source: San Francisco Department of Elections

jsabatini@examiner.com

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