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The Police Officers Association, the union that represents San Diego Police Officers, is holding meetings throughout the day to vote on a contract agreement sketched out over the last couple of months by the union and the Mayor’s Office. The first meeting was at 5 a.m.

The deal includes a 6 percent pay raise over the course of the year for all San Diego police officers and does not eliminate the department’s controversial Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP.

Rather than killing or retooling the department’s DROP program, the Mayor’s Office will instead be asking the courts to determine whether or not DROP constitutes a vested benefit, said a source at the Police Officers Association who was granted anonymity because the deal is still being voted on and the union has a confidentiality agreement with the Mayor’s Office. A determination that the program isn’t vested could make it easier for the city to strip the benefit in the future.

“Put it this way, we have DROP in our contract for next year,” the source said.

The 6 percent raise builds on a pay raise of between 8 percent and 9 percent the POA secured for officers last year. The contract agreed to in 2007 also radically redefined the Police Department’s medical benefits plan. It was approved by almost 90 percent of POA members.

The Police Department has been struggling with a double-whammy of rising attrition rates and dropping recruitment numbers for the last few years. A survey commissioned by Mayor Sanders in late 2006 showed take-home pay for SDPD officers was far below the norm for the region, but last year’s pay boost has gone some way towards helping the department stem the flow of officers leaving.

Jeff Jordon, a POA director, said the contract has the unanimous support of the union’s board.

“I’m strongly advocating that members vote on this contract,” Jordon said.

The POA meetings will be held throughout the day. A final vote result is not expected until late tonight or tomorrow. The contract will also have to be approved by the City Council.

WILL CARLESS

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