The City of San Jose will soon be considering a controversial program aimed at boosting its understaffed police department. The goal: to entice officers to stay on the force, after retirement.
The police proposal, what the department calls a new “officer retention” program, is expected to be announced publicly next week, but it’s already drawing fire behind the scenes. Critics say it's a bad version of an old idea won't solve the staffing crisis and may create new problems.
Hundreds of San Jose police officers have quit over the city's pension reform efforts. To stem the tide, the San Jose Police Department, with support from the mayor and city officials, plans to offer retiring cops a deferred retirement option program, called DROP. In essence, the officer retires, but their pension is put in a trust fund so they can work two or three more years without paying into the retirement system. Then, when they actually leave, they get that pension money in full.
San Jose councilman and mayoral candidate Sam Liccardo said, regardless of rank, most officers would be put in patrol units.
"We want to send a clear signal to all members of the department, that if they're contemplating retirement in the coming year, they've got an option,” Liccardo said.
The police union said the city rejected similar proposals before, including one once used in San Francisco, and called the latest version politically motivated and “desperate.”
"What if the officer who's now 'retired' but still working is seriously injured?” said Sgt. Jim Unland, president of the San Jose Police Officers' Association.
The city asked the union on Friday to meet next week to discuss the proposal.
"The mayor and I will be coming out with a memorandum this coming week, and we want to begin negotiations right away,” Liccardo said.
"This is a smoke screen to take attention away from the Measure B problems, away from the police exodus problems,” Unland said, “and it's really a disingenuous effort at this point.”
Despite the disagreement, the union said it will meet with the city after the proposal is “officially” unveiled on Wednesday.