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The Bell Tolls on S.F.'s Double-Dipping Cops Program 

Tuesday, Jul 29 2014

Irony is a much-misused term these days. So, at our own risk, let's posit the following as ironic: San Francisco voters opted to beef up cops' pensions to 90 percent of salary at age 55 (up from 75 percent) but then, only a few years later, voted to initiate a Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP), paying cops who worked past retirement age simultaneous salaries and pensions — thereby incentivizing cops to retire early as well as work past retirement.

Whether or not it's ironic, it's surely expensive. The city pulled the plug on its DROP in 2011, but it was only at the beginning of this month that all but a handful of its participants aged out.

So we can, in essence, close the book on DROP. Some 326 cops, already earning six-digit salaries and awaiting 90-percent pensions, also bagged lump-sum payments totaling $76.4 million.

That's a lot of money for a program the police union pledged would be "cost-neutral" when it pushed DROP onto the 2008 ballot. And while DROP was flogged as a means to keep older cops on the job, a 2011 analysis by the city controller found that, following its inception, nearly three times the percentage of veteran cops retired.

So, in summation, San Francisco voters greenlit incentives for cops to stay and go — and reward them for both — and a program enacted to keep cops on the job longer may actually have led to them leaving earlier.

One final bit of potential irony: Police union higher-ups in 2011 argued that nixing DROP would be a catastrophe, as cops would flood the program when it became clear it would be curtailed.

A hell of an argument: The program must be retained, lest it be used.

And now, nearly $80 million later, it's almost used up.

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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