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Did San Jose Police Sergeant Scott Castruita Earn a Fair Pension?

Did San Jose Police Sergeant Scott Castruita Earn a Fair Pension?

I am writing this article because I recently had a Christmas party with some close friends who I care about very much and I know they feel the same about me. However, there is always one common theme that seems to come up in our conversations and that is my retirement from the San Jose Police Department. In August of 2011, I retired after a 28-year career as a police officer, ending the last 12 years as a patrol sergeant. I was very proud of my career choice and I could not imagine taking any other path.

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This article is only to share my thoughts and is not in any way, shape, or form a complaint or attempt to gain sympathy from the reader. The economy has made it tough on all of us. Police officers, firefighters, and civilians alike are all feeling the effects of our current economic downturn. However, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed has managed to take this worldwide economic downturn to demonize his police officers and firefighters in an attempt to cover up his and other city representatives’ inability to properly manage the city or just plain do their job.

It is unfortunate that many of my friends and people that I consider family has been tainted by Mayor Reed’s lies and now have negative opinions that are based on ignorance of the facts. Many of the people that used to tell me “You don’t get paid enough for your job or I wouldn’t do your job for a million dollars, now accuse me of gorging myself at the public trough.  I can’t blame them completely for their mistaken conclusion. Because everyone is busy in their day-to-day lives, just trying to keep their own boats afloat, they don’t have time to do a true examination of the facts so they rely on a media that loves controversy so they can sell newspapers. They also rely on an elected leader Mayor Reed who has an unscrupulous hidden agenda and flat out lies to his citizens.

For this reason, I ended my career quietly with no fanfare, no party, in fact, I even skipped out on my last briefing because it was to difficult for me to say goodbye to my friends and police family. I was heartsick feeling they were stuck on a sinking ship and it was our own Mayor that fired the torpedoes. His torpedoes have completely demoralized and are rapidly destroying the finest, most highly educated, and dedicated police department in the nation.

I am proud to have worked with these officers and leaders. I am saddened because every officer I talk to now has lost their enthusiasm and feels stuck in their job and is unsure of their future. Thanks to Mayor Reed, there are no winners in his plan and the citizens of the city will suffer the most as the crime rate rises. When his term is over, Mayor Reed will move on and leave San Jose smoldering in ashes.

Now for the question: Did Scott Castruita, retired San Jose Police Sergeant earn a fair pension?

I would like to answer this question by giving a few examples of my personal experience as a police officer and I ask you to compare these experiences to your own career before you judge me.

•    Giving CPR to a woman’s father that I knew was dead because his small grandchildren were begging me to help him and the crowd of onlookers surrounding us expecting me to help him.

•    Being the first on the scene after a young mother had called 911. When I arrived, she handed me her obviously dead 9-month-old baby as if I was going to run for a touchdown, crying please help me, please save my baby. I did CPR on this baby for what seemed like the longest 5 minutes of my life.

•    I had to lead an investigation into the death of a 9-month-old baby. The horrible feelings I had because I had to interrogate a grieving mother as a possible suspect to be sure about how her baby had died. Collecting evidence at the scene and taking photos of the dead baby only to be told later it was most likely a case of Sudden Infant Dead Syndrome.

•    Never being able to erase that experience from my mind nor sleep through the night because I had a 9-month-old son of my own at home. I was always waking up to check and be sure he was breathing. Because of this experience, when my daughter was born, I moved her into my room at night for the same reason.

•    Having to administer CPR two more times to dead victims because the victim’s family, friends and bystanders were expecting me to save their lives. I just couldn’t perform the miracle they wanted from me.

•    Holding a 17-year-old boy’s hand and telling him “everything was going to be OK, we are going to get this car off of you”. Watching his life slip away, all the time knowing the truth, there was nothing I could do to save his life. When the family showed up, I lied to them. I told them, your son he didn’t suffer, it was over fast for him. The rest of the night on patrol was a long lonely night for me.

•    All the terrible car accidents I was on where I saw badly hurt people, including dead children and the elderly. No matter the conditions, freezing, wet, or hot weather, the conditions were never right to deal with this type of experience.

•    Responding to an emergency call for help from a brother officer, only to arrive and see him lifeless between two parked cars after he was shot by a crazed gunman. Watching as another brother officer, critically wounded in the same gun battle, as he is loaded into an ambulance and then later hearing the news that he died from his gunshot wounds. That officer was one of my recruiters when I was hired as a police officer.

•    On another day I again find out I was down the street when another brother officer was shot to death with his own gun while processing a drunk driver.

•    Responding to the countless numbers of suicides and attempted suicides. Arriving on a scene to find a man that blew his own head off with a shotgun. The man that drank a gallon of pool acid. The 16-year-old boy that stole his dad’s gun and shot himself in the head after he texted his friend’s goodbye. The man that soaked his sleeping bag in gasoline then got in and set it on fire. The man who took a butcher knife and cut his stomach open and having to talk to him as his guts lay beside him. The person that rammed their car into a tree after leaving a very touching letter behind. There are so many more that still haunt me and make me wonder why?

•    The many brother and sister officers, some who were close friends and took their own lives. The lingering thoughts and feelings, should I have seen that coming?

•    The times I fought with a suspect who was trying to take my gun away and kill me with it. I live with lingering thoughts of what would he have done to me if I lost the fight?  Wanting to hear the sound of the sirens telling me my brother and sister officers were on the way to help me. I thank god for my brother and sister officers that showed up to help me. One of those times they even had to return my gun to me because it ended up in the middle of the street during the fight. That’s when I decided to buy a backup gun with my own money and I carried it hidden on me for the rest of my career.

•    Winning fights with suspects did not always mean I walked away without injuries. I have had my kneecap knocked off, a disk in my back is compressed, all the bones in one hand broken, several eye injuries, and two shoulder surgeries. The list goes on but so do I.

•    Over the years I have had rocks, bottles, sticks, you name it and its been thrown at me and sometimes they hit me. I have been bitten, punched, kicked, hit with cars, spit at, and called every name in the book. But I have also been thanked and had my hand shaken many times by grateful citizens.

•    I have set up funeral home arraignments for grieving families. I have checked on mothers, fathers, and other family members because relatives had not heard from them, only to find them dead and have to tell the caller that their loved one is gone. I have had to deliver the worst news to families about their dead children or mom or dad. Don’t think that officers just go back into service and never shed a tear. There were times I could barely get around the corner without my tears making it too blurry for me to drive. That’s when you call your family just to say hi and they don’t have a clue what you are feeling. This is one of those jobs that won’t allow you to just go home at the end of the day and forget about it.

•    All my kid’s events and all the holidays I missed while on patrol. Someone has to work those holidays. Not me anymore and I am thankful to be able to spend them now with my family and friends. I don’t have to get those calls at work from my family about how much they miss me because I am not there with them.

Ok I think you get the picture this is not just my story, this is almost every police officer’s story. Just change the names and the faces. Police officers have all the same day-to-day stresses everyone else has dealing with life. We are also part of that 99%. Yet because we drive those blue and white cars, we end up being the most visible symbol of government and the target of some people’s frustrations with government. We go to work and sometimes have to make split-second decisions that will affect our lives as well as others, all at the same time we are thinking about our kids and other love ones.

I feel I earned my pension. I paid into my pension my whole career. I am not getting a free pension. In fact, when I retired, the city was still taking almost 22% of my pay for my pension. During my career, we were asked many times by the city to sacrifice a pay raise because of city budget problems. The city told us if you agree not to take a pay raise, we will increase your pension. We made a good faith agreement with the city. Now the city wants to break their agreement. It would be no different then you making all your house payments and then the bank shows up and says it’s your fault we are having money issues we need to take your house. Really? I don’t think so. I will continue to produce and help the city catch bad guys because catching bad guys is what I do best. I refuse to waste the time and the money the citizens of San Jose invested in me.

This Op-Ed is written by and the opinion of Retired Sergeant Scott Castruita, President of Fugitive Watch Productions.

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Fugitive Watch was founded in 1992 by two San Jose police officers, Steve Ferdin and Scott Castruita. Fugitive Watch is a reality-based television show, newspaper and website, We can also be found on social media such as InstagramFacebook, and Twitter. The mission of Fugitive Watch is to make Your community safer by helping law enforcement fight crime. Fugitive Watch brings the community, local business, and law enforcement together to solve crimes, apprehend wanted fugitives and provide education and crime prevention information to the community.

Business and private sponsorship help Fugitive Watch empower the community to strike back at crime from the safety of their living rooms. Fugitive Watch has been credited by law enforcement with over several 1000 crimes solved or fugitives apprehended. Fugitive Watch also helps improve the safety of police officers by locating fugitives for law enforcement so they can more safely arrest them rather than unexpectedly running across them through extremely dangerous routine “chance encounters”. As law enforcement officers know all too well, These “chance encounters” have resulted in countless officer injuries and deaths.

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  • I bow my head in reverence, prayer and thanksgiving for you and your service. Thank you is not enough. I am the wife of a Sgt. in another city. Thank you for your heatwrenching, beautiful article. You made me fall in love with my husband again.

  • Thanks Scott for having the internal fortitude to speak out against the movement against public pension systems. When times are good, and private sector employees are getting bonuses, fancy company dinners, and lucrative stock options, no one takes notice of the public employees moving along with pay raises that only match the rate of inflation. But, when times get a little tough, oh boy, here come the whiners, “Why is he getting this and I’m not!” What these people should be asking is, “What is keeping me from getting those same benefits and how can I make the changes in my life to get them” If being a cop is so lucrative and such a scam, I encourage all the folks with that mind set out there to submit your application. First, you’ll have to put yourself through an academy, because very few departments these days won’t even look at you unless you’re already trained. So you’ll have to set aside about 8 months of survival money and find a place to live rent-free to accomplish this. Then, you need to pass a written test, physical agility, oral interview, polygraph, psychological and background investigation (sorry, no felonies, drug use or major credit problems people). Then, you get at least one other high level administrator interview to really prove you should be considered. Then, you get 4 months of intensive field training and about a year of probationary status where you can me terminated without cause for just about any reason. Sounds like you have what it takes? Put in your application and take advantage of this lavish scam.

    Having done this job for quite a few years, one thing I’ve learned over time is that there are a small percentage of “Cop Haters” who simply hate authority and always will. They are loud, ignorant, and don’t take the time to understand facts. This will never change. Several of them have posted on this board, and they don’t deserve the time of any officer to address their hate. They are job security for us and future generations of police officers.

    Fortunately, most people do support their police and we don’t need to convince them to continue to do so. However, with this movement to attack police pensions, it’s our duty as officers to educate the public on the facts. For anyone curious about the facts about Pers retirements (not what San Jose is a part of), go to their website and read the information they are presenting. You’ll be surprised at the outright lies being presented by special interest groups hell bent on shutting down unions (which has always been their agenda).

    It’s important for pension beneficiaries to educate themselves so they can educate others. I’ve already started emailing friends and family about the facts, so they have the ability to address the inaccuracies they hear during casual conversations they have with their friends and co-workers. It’s the only way we can put a stop to this.

    Thanks again Scott. Enjoy your well-earned retirement.


  • We are also part of that 99%. Yet because we drive those blue and white cars, we end up being the most visible symbol of government and the target of some people’s frustrations with government.

    I know my frustration with the police (in general, not you or anyone specifically on the San Jose force) can best be described by your comment above.

    You KNOW you are one of US, yet the police forces seem to be implementing the will of the 1% over the will of the 99% constantly.

    I’ll have sympathy for the police officers’ pensions when police start showing restraint and sympathy for everyone else trying to survive (especially in regards to self-policing their own brothers in blue).

    The citizens of this country didn’t start the ‘us vs them’ mentality that most PEACE officers seem to have as evidenced by several of the comments:

    99% of the people don’t even have a clue what it takes to be a police officer.

    So for the idiots like the “Tax Payer”,

    So for all you idiots that think Police and Fire dont deserve the pension they get

    All of the above quotes were taken from people identifying themselves as working in LE or formerly working in LE on this very post.

    How many private sector workers are taking voluntary cuts?

    How about nearly all employees of United Airlines?

    In 1994, United’s pilots, machinists, bag handlers and non-contract employees agreed to acquire 55% of company stock in exchange for 15% to 25% salary concessions.

    My mother took voluntary cuts with nearly the rest of United Airlines in exchange for stock. She not only lost all of her stock when the airline went bankrupt she also lost well over half of her pension that is now being paid by PBGC.

    Scott, I enjoyed reading your article. It gave a lot of insight on the daily occurrences an LEO faces. Personally I have never felt that the pensions weren’t ‘deserved’.

    My mother deserved hers too, and she’ll be part of the public paying the increased taxes if *something* isn’t done. Whether that something should be decreased pensions or not, I’m undecided.

    Have any alternative suggestions to get this city back on solid financial footing?

    And for those complaining about “Derrick’s” inflammatory reply, try looking in the mirror.

  • Oh My God!
    I had to stop reading some of these notes. Some of the people should be ashamed of themselves. Would their comments or statements be the same…if an Officer of the Law were trying to save their loved ones? “Police Officers” are worth their weight in Gold! As far as I am concerned, they don’t get paid enough for what they must do or have to put up with. So true, while we are sleeping at night, they are the ones out on the road, responding to a domestic violence call, car accident, murder, assault incident, bank robbery..shall I continue..Would any of the above people volunteer to do the things our Police Officer’s do? I think not. Police Officer’s usually get negative comments, yelled at, kicked etc etc more than they receive a “sincere thank you”. Again, they deserve a lot more than the small amount they get paid.
    I come from a family of 3 brothers who are cops. All three of them were above honest, caring souls that poured their hearts into their careers. Notice I said careers, “not jobs”. Not one of my 3 brother’s ever complained…they loved what they did. All 3 were extremely well known in the State of CT. They earned every penny they received and then some. Unfortunately, only 2 had the chance to retire..after > 30 years of excellant service. My 3rd brother (youngest of the 3) at 47 was shot and killed in the line of duty (domestic violence call). So you take your nasty comments about “how much cops get paid” and walk a mile in my shoes! There is not one single day that goes by that I don’t have him in my thoughts or on my mind. Not a single day that goes by that I happen to see a Police Car on the side of the road (that happened to have pulled someone over) that I say a quick prayer to my baby brother..”Pete, please keep them safe and help them make it home tonight”.

    What would I give to take 12-30-2004 back and still have my brother alive.. Rest in Peace Baby Bro…

    And to you Sir..Thank you for your Continual Valued Service. I appreciate what you have done. I sincerely hope you enjoy your well deserved retirement. But most of all, enjoy spending time with your family. Best Wishes..

    Nora Lavery-Petrash
    sister of Fallen Officer
    (EOW 12-30-2004) MPO Peter J. Lavery Newington, CT.

  • You left out the night you were hit head on, while on-duty, by a drunk driver and we couldn’t find you. It’s a night I will never forget, along with a few other nights. You deserve your retirement!!!! It was an honor to work for you!!! ….Mac….where is my t-shirt????

  • First of all I just want to say congratulations on your retirement you still look great and active for your family, put aside all the battles you’ve been through I can hear that caring side of you which reminds me so much of another sergeant who retired from the sjpd, Mike Pomeroy you both sound so alike! This article is very touching but you got the job done I want to do the same as you both did. You’re a rolemodel to me and many others, but at the same time just a little nervous on the stories however if you did it I can do it too! Have fun with you’re family you deserve it!

  • There is no doubt all you you guys deserve your pensions. Whenever there is a problem, people automatically turn to someone in uniform. The things you have experienced are probably some of the worst (and best) anyone can experience. Yes it was your career choice but what if no one made that choice, where would we be then?. Everyone’s job is important for different reasons it’s just that some are more stressful. Yours being one of them. Hats off to you all. Alex from Scotland.

  • Scott,
    Great editorial. I dont live in San Jose, but have family who does and a brother you worked with. And yes, absolutely you deserve every dime you get for your years of service.
    I was in LE myself and had to retire because of an injury I sustained while working. The P.O.S. that hurt me had several warrants for DV violence and was involved in another the day I arrested him. He was determined to escape and decided to hurt me rather than face the judge. I went to the hospital with neck,shoulder,and head unjuries. Ultimately costing me. Then I was forced to retire because I was unable to do the job with the injuries.

    And for the know it alls, Police officers and FireFighters, have to live a different life than most to even qualify to be either one. Then the training that most couldn’t sustain to be qualified.

    And as Scott wrote throughout his article, I too was lucky to be at the same type of calls for service he had to go to. Not limited to but including the dead babies, the guy that wanted his gun to hurt or kill him, and the bloody car crashes.

    Unfortunately, I wasnt able to do 28 years as a Police Officer that Scott was able to do. And I wasnt able to do all the special assignments I was set out to do as he did.

    So for the idiots like the “Tax Payer”, Derrick, and I believe Cory, who think Police and Firefighters dont give up alot to be in our careers, or deserve the pension we get after many dangerous years of service, we need to ask those losers a few queations:
    1-could you even qualify to do either job?
    2-Has your background been so clean that you would qualify to do the job?
    3-Does your current job(if you even have one)ask you to come in 4 hrs early or stay 4 hours or more past your shift because someone who works the next shift is sick or the triple homicide or Car Crash your’r working dictates you get evidence or statements processed?
    4-Could you shoot and kill a bad guy or put your life on the line when your are called to an obvious threat of violence? then go home and put your head on your pillow and sleep like a baby without any violent thoughts going through your head then return to work the next day like it never happened?
    5-Are you mandated to work Nights, Holidays, Weekends?
    6-And some of the most important points, Who do you call when someone is Violating your Rights in your own home(Robbery/Home Invasion), Someone ran into your car causing major injury and property damage to you and left the scene without exchanging information, someone beat your ass because youre such a P.O.S. and run your mouth, Your house is fully engulfed in flames, your wife, child, mother/father has hurt themselves and could be bleeding to death.

    The answer to all of those from top to bottom is, you probably havent lived the pure or close to pure life it takes to be either one, you probably dont have a clue what a gym looks like or what the meaning of self Defense means, your grocery clerk/stockboy job doesnt require you to wear a gunbelt or bullet proof vest,(but yes you do have a price sticker gun and an apron or Safeway wind breaker) you probably dont have a BIG enough pair to stop on the side of the road in the getto on your way home from the “Club” in the middle of the night, to help at a serious car crash or obviously injured citizen,

    Answer, you call the Police and the Fire Department every time when the world around you is upside down.

    So for all you idiots that think Police and Fire dont deserve the pension they get, ask yourself all those questions. If you qualify, maybe you should hang up your basic salary/hourly job checking/stocking groceries and the price gun and take a serious shot at either one so you too can retire with some kind of retirement/pension.
    And if you dont qualify, shut your yapper and realize you chose the life you live today and what you thought was best for you. You thought driving that Chromed out Lexus was more important than saving your more money so you could retire some time..

    And for the Mayor, keep track of what he does after he leaves the Mayors office. He will head to another gravey job (Politics Driven) that probably has to do with government, which will keep his high dollar pension going so he can retire in a resort location in a gated community, so that he doesnt have to worry as much about the violent citizens “AS much” if he lived on the East side of the wonderful city he’s Mayor of.

    So to end this dialog, enjoy your well deserved retirement Scott, along with all the other Police and Firefighters.

    And for those that think its all wrong, well go to city hall in your city and look up all the compensation packages of “All” the city employees at City Hall(Including the Mayor.
    Its all public information. You will find there are some seriously high paid people there, and they get seriously high retirement compensation packages. You just havent taken the time to look into all the jobs that aren’t in the spotlight.

    A LE Retiree Too

  • I don’t understand the arguments that are being made against Scott and his pension. To those who doesn’t think that Scott deserve his earnings, have you ever experience what it is like to be a police officer? Do you know how hard it is to become a police officer? Have you ever risk your life to help others? Does your profession require you to stare at death in the eyes every single day while helping others? Does your profession involve fighting with criminals twice your size, and risk serious injuries or death? Does it include the possibility of getting shot by these criminals? Does it involve running into dangerous situations to rescue people? If your answer is Yes to all of these questions, then you too deserve the pension that Scott is getting. If you don’t experience ALL of these on almost everyday basis, then you shouldn’t be saying anything… because all that you are doing is making a fool of yourself. Congrats on your retirement Scott. You deserve every dime of your pension, and more.

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