The San Francisco Board of Supervisors decided today not to extend a program designed to encourage police officers not to retire after a report by the city controller’s office found it was costing the city millions of dollars. The Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) was approved by voters as Proposition B in February 2008 as a three-year program intended to reduce the need to recruit, hire and train new officers to meet staffing requirements, and was supposed to be cost-neutral to the city.
However, the city controller’s report in April found that the program would cost $6 million annually if it were allowed to continue past its June 30 expiration date. The program is eligible only to police officers who are at least 50 years old, have 25 years of service, and are full-time officers. Once officers entered the program, they had money put aside in a tax-deferred account that they would receive once they leave the force. If officers stayed longer than they would have without the program, it would save the city money by not having to spend it on health benefits for two employees — the retiree and a new hire — but it would cost the city money if they retired sooner than normal.
The controller’s report found that before the program, 12 percent of officers who were 55 years old with 25 years of service were retiring, while that number jumped to 33 percent after the program was enacted. The Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 today against extending the program past June 30. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who is running for sheriff in the November election, was the only member of the board to support extending the program, saying more time was needed to determine its efficiency, and that it could help stave off the attrition of hundreds of officers in the coming years.
San Francisco Police Officers Association president Gary Delagnes said that he expects the department will lose up to 500 officers in the next three years because of retirement and attrition. Delagnes said the board has “absolutely no plan for new hiring or how to backfill positions that are going to be vacant” because the police academy has not trained cadets since 2009. But Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said the controller’s report “makes it very clear” that the program “costs us more money.” Elsbernd said, “This is not a smart program, it needs to go away,” and said the $6 million could be better spent by the department in other ways.
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