Thursday, Jan. 25, 2007 | Thank you for the very thoughtful piece this morning “How to Pay Police“. I, and many of my colleagues, are very encouraged that someone is noticing what is going on and trying to make suggestions or find ways to reach amicable agreements between the city and the police.

I have written to you before, am a fan, and have 27-plus years on the police department. I will stick this out — too much invested at this time to leave. Plus, I am hopelessly addicted to the job. This is one factor Mayor Sanders knows happens to cops and will use it to his advantage.

A couple points for clarification on comments you made.

You wrote…”The police don’t seem to be happy about the idea of getting a simple 4 percent raise as some have projected might happen.”

You couldn’t be more accurate with this! General feeling is the membership of the POA wants the 7 percent that was taken away from us two years ago first, and then we will talk about a raise remembering we went without one for two years. If 4 percent is the offer from the city, my prediction would be another impasse and more officers leaving.

We don’t know what is being talked about in the negotiations, City Attorney Mike Aguirre wants to make them public, but the employees the negotiations affect don’t know what is being discussed either. Mayor Sanders said, a couple of months ago, the officers that are leaving for other agencies would be sorry they left. Generally, the membership is hoping he will make good on this very vague statement.

With the retirement calculations it seems very few people have an accurate grasp on this and it is not that difficult. You wrote: “Right now, police officers can retire with a full pension at age 50.” Absolutely not true!

My case is a great example of this. I was hired at age 21 but did not begin to pay into the retirement system until I graduated from the Police Academy as none of us do. This is when you begin to earn time served credits towards retirement. Very few people could have come on at an earlier age than I, and if they did it was only by a month or two. For retirement calculations, I began paying into the system at age 21 1/2 years. “Full retirement benefit” as you put it, and as currently calculated has a maximum of 90 percent pay, (3 percent per year of service x 30 years) of the highest one year salary. In order for me, one of the youngest to ever be hired, to earn “full retirement benefit” I would retire at 51 1/2 years of age, not 50. 

You will find a great majority of the people being hired are 25 or older. Thus to raise the retirement age to 55 does nothing to affect the age of which a person actually receives the “full retirement benefit.”

Currently an employee can DRAW retirement at age 50 if they have 20 years of service. This is not at “FULL RETIREMENT BENEFIT” but only at 60 percent! Changing the age in which an employee can actually DRAW retirement from age 50 to age 55 means the employee will be paid 15 percent more in retirement benefit and any second grader knows that will not be a “savings” for the city!

Also you will have an older work force with more age related costs and issues to deal with, i.e. employees using more sick time, more injuries which equals more officers on light duty and not on the street working, more workmen’s comp claims and medical claims. I do not see this saving the city any money either.

We have done our part, we paid our individual retirement contributions and at a higher rate than any other So Cal agency (refer to the city pay comparison study), the city did not live up to their obligations.

It is going to be an interesting next four months, and I don’t presume to be speaking for all of the officers on the department, but optimism does not appear to be high.

Keep up the good work, and thanks!

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