This post has been updated.

Incoming Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman can only serve as the city’s top cop for four years.

Last year, Zimmerman enrolled in a voluntary retirement program that requires she leave the police force by March 1, 2018, a spokeswoman for the city’s pension system confirmed Thursday.

The city’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan – often referred to as DROP – requires participants to retire within five years of entering the program and allows them to begin amassing a pension in a separate account they can collect after retirement.

The San Diego Reader noted that Zimmerman, a 31-year police veteran, signed up for the program, but didn’t immediately confirm whether Zimmerman had sealed the deal.

This arrangement wouldn’t necessarily keep Zimmerman from returning to the police force – or taking a job elsewhere – after she retires. Outgoing Police Chief Bill Lansdowne joined the San Diego Police Department after retiring from San Jose’s force.

The city’s DROP program also allows retirees to return to work as provisional employees for up to 90 days per year, the pension system spokeswoman said.

Mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer announced Wednesday Zimmerman would replace Lansdowne. A Faulconer spokesman said Thursday the mayor-elect was aware Zimmerman was enrolled in the retirement program before he announced her appointment.

“I picked Shelley Zimmerman to be our next police chief because our department needs immediate leadership,” Faulconer said in a statement. “I am confident she will do a fantastic job over the next four years, and take action to ensure public confidence and trust in the police department for years to come.”

The City Council is expected to approve Zimmerman’s appointment next week. She will be the city’s first female police chief.

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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