Police Hiring

March 24, 2006

Date: 03-24-2006 7:12 AM – Word Count: 625

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The LAPD will face a dramatic departure of seasoned officers when a deferred retirement program begins pushing them into mandatory retirement next year, it was reported today.

The deferred retirement program enacted four years ago was aimed at giving the department time to recruit more officers, but hiring has lagged behind expectations, in part due to budget problems, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Now, more than 1,600 officers and city firefighters will be required to retire over the next five years, and the police and fire departments will have to plug the vacancies.

“People will start bailing out this next fiscal year,” police Chief William Bratton told The Times. “We are starting to experience that trickle, but it will get to be a much more significant number in 2007 and 2008.”

Those required to retire include four of the department’s eight deputy police chiefs and 264 detectives, among them some of the department’s most seasoned investigators.

In the coming fiscal year starting July 1, the department will lose one deputy chief, four commanders, seven captains and 116 detectives, the newspaper reported.

At the fire department, those who must retire because of the Deferred Retirement Option Program, or DROP, include Chief William Bamattre, who will go in 2008.

Beyond the chief, the program poses less of a challenge to the fire department because that agency has little trouble attracting recruits.

But recruiting for the LAPD is much more difficult.

The DROP program was instituted in 2002 to sweeten the pot for workers who agreed then to postpone their departures to allow the LAPD a few years to grow significantly before so many employees retired. It was intended to last five
years.

“The whole purpose of DROP was to give the city a window of opportunity to recruit more people, which they haven’t done a real good job with,” said Bob Baker, president of the Police Protective League.

As Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa prepares his budget for the next fiscal year, he has to factor the loss of people into his plans to expand the departments. The fallout from the retirement program also could have political implications, The Times reported.

Villaraigosa was elected last year while promising to expand the police force by 1,000 officers during his first term.

To do that, he would have to expand the police force by an average of 250 officers per year. But the retirement program means that he also has to make up for hundreds of retirements before the police force can grow.

In a normal year, about 300 officers retire, but for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 238 others are facing mandatory departure.

That means Villaraigosa would have to hire 788 officers, slightly more than the capacity of the Police Academy, next year to make up for attrition and achieve his expansion goal. Recruits spend seven months at the academy.

Under deferred retirement, a police officer or firefighter who has at least 30 years of service can continue to work at full salary and receive pension payments, which are put into holding accounts.

At the end of five years, the employee gets the five years worth of pension checks. The worker also benefits because his or her pension payment rate will have been boosted by five years of cost-of-living increases.

The current city budget calls for the police force to reach 9,611 officers by July 1, still fewer than the department put on the streets at its peak eight years ago, when sworn ranks totaled 9,852. There now are 9,314 officers.

Bratton said he is working on the assumption that the retirement program will not be renewed, so he has begun grooming some mid-level command staff to take over for superiors.

CNS-03-24-2006 07:12

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