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Police Unions Vow To Fight Pension Reform

June 06, 2012  | 

CC_Flickr: kenteegardin
CC_Flickr: kenteegardin

Pension-reform ballot measures in two of California's largest cities are likely to face years of court battles, police unions said.

During municipal elections in San Jose and San Diego on Tuesday, voters approved Measure B and Proposition B by 70% and 69% respectively. While the measures passed in landslide votes, unions representing officers in those cities said the ill-conceived initiatives take too hard a line and may violate state or federal statutes governing public pensions.

"The manner in which these ballot measures are being passed to malign officers is horrible," said Officer Jeff Jordan, vice president of the San Diego Police Officers Association. "[Supporters] are not running a truthful campaign."

The measures attacked pension reform with differing approaches to lowering city obligations to retired public employees—San Jose's drew an immediate lawsuit from the San Jose Police Officers' Association. However, they were both seen as test cases for pension reform in other areas of the country.

The San Jose POA has filed a lawsuit asking a superior court judge to block Measure B, a proposal that would allow current employees to choose whether to pay more to keep their existing retirement plan, or switch to a plan with reduced benefits and a higher retirement age, reports Business Week.

The plan was supported by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, who won re-election. The city has counter-sued the POA in federal court.

Sgt. Jim Unland, POA president, said the measure will cripple police recruiting. Smaller departments in cities with stronger budgets will be able to poach officers from larger cities who impose pension reductions, he said.

"We have one lateral who has applied to our department," Unland told POLICE Magazine. "People are leaving. People aren't coming. I think what we're going to turn into is a training department.

San Diego's Proposition B imposes a six-year freeze on pay levels used to determine pension benefits unless a two-thirds majority of the City Council votes to override it. It also puts new hires, except for police officers, into 401(k)-style plans, reports Business Week.

"We're extremely disappointed with the results of Proposition B," Brian Marvel, San Diego POA's president, told POLICE Magazine. "We're still trying to digest the implications. It's unfortunate that elected officials felt this was the only course of action instead of discussion and solving these issues in negotiations."

The passage of the initiatives may help revive Gov. Jerry Brown's pension-reform plan that proposes a "hybrid" pension and has stalled in the Legislature. A hybrid pension is one that includes components of a traditional police pension and a 401(k).

By Paul Clinton


How Safe Is Your Pension?

Pensions: Defined Benefit vs. Defined Contribution

Pensions: Winning Hearts and Minds

Comments (22)

Displaying 1 - 22 of 22

Bruce @ 6/7/2012 4:06 PM

Maybe 9-1-1 in these cities should be call forwarded to the mayors office/home.

Bob T.retired NYS LEO @ 6/7/2012 4:07 PM

One of the many reasons I worked as a cop was because of the retirement. I'm retired for several years and I fear I will one day get a notice they are cutting my pension. We perform in a dangerous profession and through proven studies some never make it to retirement, and we normally don't live much longer after retirement. That is one reason they explain to you in the academy for the 1/2 pay, after so many years pension. I heard fatso motormouth on his radio show instigating and approving of the pension cuts and union busting by the politicos and how we public employees get better pensions and just keep demanding more. He said its about time the people have awakened and made the cuts. Maybe he should walk the streets and risk his life instead of earning millions of dollars on his derriere behind a mic basically calling public employees leeches and overpaid. We will eventually win in court battles, but it will take time as they try to balance the budget on the backs of the working class and the rich keep their tax breaks and get richer.

Deadman @ 6/7/2012 4:55 PM

I got into police work because i enjoyed putting the bad guy away and smiling while doing it,not for the money.Nine months after being hired,Ohio made a 457 plan available,i looked at it,saw the advantages of it and jumped in with both feet.I tried to get others involved but they lived for the new boat,motorcycle,the truck,it wasn't until one of the nosy guys saw one of my quarterly statements and how much i made that others start getting interested,then the number of people grew and grew,especially when i sat down with them and showed them how much they could save and still have their toys,their vacations,their childrens education.Police officers are the guardians of their own future and their families,if they don't take notice of their savings,retirement,their future,it's their own fault.If you rely solely on your pension and some savings,then you're no better off than the civilian that relies on social security,every year prices go thru the roof,homes double,my first new car was $3,500.00,my last new car was $55,000.00.If you don't plan out your future,you might not have one and if you live in california,you didn't have one 15 years ago,FUTURE.Don't rely on the city or county to keep paying you big bucks and big retirement anymore,if your community is in the red to your union and other city unions,open your eyes,the writing is on the wall.Even obama is trying to change that last hired ,first fired thinking.

Chris @ 6/7/2012 5:19 PM

Before they start changing Police and Fire Pensions they should look at their own sweet benefit packages, ie congress and assembly members. I think it is ridiculous that they are paid over 200.00 a day per diem when in congress/ DC or Sacramento because they are away from home. If you did not want to work away from home dont take the job, politicians have some of the fatest pension and benefit packages in the nation. This does not include all the insider traders info they receive and are aloud to use for their self benefit. If a politician was not rich before being elected to office they are always rich after. Try walking a beat and having people shoot at you daily and then say we area all over compensated. I did not see them inline to take the test with me, their choice.

Stan @ 6/7/2012 5:31 PM

Bob and Deadman both have good points. Yes we do, do a job that not just anyone is capible of doing. Yes we make sacrafices that other professions don't. But the gravy train is over, public economies can't continue to fund and support their employees as they have. I'm part of a 401 pension plan that doesn't guarantee a healthy retirement. I also contribute to a 457 and of course i have other options as well. Yes I believe we are a special breed and we should be treated differantly (as people hold us to a differant standard) but times are changing. Years ago alot of people became cops because the benefits were good, but usually the pay wasn't. Now you can work at wal-mart and get similar benefits. You just can't depend on a defined benefit, you'll have to take an active roll in you're own retirment planning.

Bill @ 6/7/2012 5:57 PM

Everyone works hard at their job, not just cops. The fact of the matter is these pensions are unsustainable, period. It doesn't matter how much you want, need, or deserve something, if the money is not there to pay for it, you're not going to get it. It is just that simple. Show me where in the private sector you can retire with full medical and dental for you and your entire family after just 20 years service? This should not have gone on as long as it has. To think it can continue to go on is foolish and unrealistic. Anyone who understands economics 101 can see it....except government workers. They soon will, like it or not.

starrman69 @ 6/7/2012 5:59 PM

We started in the 80's with the 401k, went on to a 403b and a 457. Then in 1997 I Sheriff got us the defined benefit pension. We maintained our defined contribution programs. I've been retired 7 years and haven't touched the defined contribution. We were fortunate. 35 years of rotten shifts and days off and not knowing if the shift you were starting would be your last...and having citizens telling me that they c/wouldn't do my job. Be safe out there and watch your six!

Mus @ 6/7/2012 6:30 PM

Everyone on the street tells us they would never want our job but when they get the chance they stick it to us!

notmeofficer @ 6/7/2012 10:10 PM

Sorry fellow coppers.. I am not in agreement with this one... I personally dont like unions... I didnt work for a department that had one (LASD).. we had a bargaining unit,, but not a union... and I never did a work slow down or other job action because I wanted "something"

On the other side I always felt the department paid me what I agreed when I got the job and lived up to their end of my employment. I didnt expect what might come out the other end would be in stone if the economy failed.

Modern unions have been a destructive force in our country and get no sympathy from me when the country is broke. Its not just us,, its all public employees who are paid much better than the private sector. The real perc of a public safety job is the fact that you have a job at all.. when much of the publicis looking or underpaid.. we should all look to contributing... (and this is especially true for new hires.. you want the job you accept the benefits offered)
I managed my money well, live within my means. There is no golden pot for any of us...

My two cents

Ron04 @ 6/7/2012 11:34 PM

@notmeofficer - well said. Let's remember that we're citizens and taxpayers first. It's not just cops - it's firemen, and teachers, and every other public employee. The defined benefit plan is unsustainable past the second generation of retirement. It's not about emotion, or self worth, or the public's perception of us. It's about MATH and the math doesn't work. Union membership nationwide is at an all time low - less than 12% - and considering the trouncing they got yesterday in Wisconsin, I'd say now is certainly the time to co-operate on legacy costs. Look at it this way - it sure makes it easier to justify a simple one time PAY RAISE !!

DB_Plan @ 6/8/2012 12:19 AM

It is amazing to see all the comments against defined benefit plans and the widespread claim that they are unsustainable. This is simply not the fact. They are sustainable and always have been until the GREEDY (now retired) people negotiated 3% at 50 retirement plans. These are simply not sustainable. But that being said, not all plans followed this model and there are many great plans out there. If they rolled back benefits to pre 2000 levels, DB plans would have no problems. Look to LA County as a model system with no problems, as one example. One often forgotten element of DC plans, when it comes to public safety, is the lack of disability retirement. If a city has a DC plan and a person is injured on duty, the city must pay for them out of pocket. Whereas right now, DB plans cover this individual out of existing funds. DB plans are excellent systems before the greedy got their hands into it and stole from future generations. Simply put, return to realistic and manageable levels for all - don't just blanketly hack and slash.

john360 @ 6/8/2012 12:51 AM

If you went into this job for the money, retirement, benefits, got 2 carry a gun or other self serving reason, maybe you should have worked in another field. We all would have been better off. Guys in the military don't do it for the pay or benefits. Yes, some have limited options in civilian life, but some just want to serve. Everyone stop whining.

Rob @ 6/8/2012 1:26 AM

I love the people on here who say, "I didn't get into police work for money". Really? Then you should have donated your salary your entire career and when you retire or if you are already retired, donate that as well. Give me a break. Oh, and by the way, I'm pretty sure that it is against the law for members of the FOP to actually strike across the whole of the least it is in Kentucky where I WORK. If municipalities, county, state, and federal government want to change this country then they need to kill the welfare system (i.e. Section 8, Medicaid, social security disability) because it's killing us. If you feel bad about receiving pay and retirement for doing a job where you are roundly rejected and despised then please, quit. The reason you enjoy the pay/retirement you have is because of the FOP. You benefit from the very thing you deride...hypocrite. If the FOP didn't exist then the LE community would be staffed with under qualified, poorly trained police staff.

John Doe @ 6/8/2012 4:04 AM

This comment is for Bill who posted on 6/7, I have been in Federal Law Enforcement since 1985 , for some reason, people seem to think that working for the Federal Government is a country club. My retirement is a flate 40% after 20, 25, 30, 40 years of service, it does not matter. Our salaries have been frozen for two year years and we are going on three for 2013. We are recieving NO cost of living increases and we pay large amounts for our health insurance and benefits. If you thing that there are huge perks being in Federal Law enforcment you are mistaken. State, local, Municipal law enforcment recieve much high pensions than Federal law enforcement officers ever have. If I am not mistaken I recieve the same training and knowlege to be a law enforcement officer to put my life on the line every day as we all do. I signed up for this even though the pensions are horrible and the pay for everyone is getting worse by the day. I will say, aside from all that, I am proud to be in Federal law enforcement and have been since I began my career in 1985, I will continue to protect and defend the Constitution no matter what you say or think. I have dedicated my life to serve my country, and my family has sacrificed in every way so people like you can voice your ill informed opinion.

j @ 6/8/2012 6:57 AM

My two cents are all that I am leaving, but see it from this perspective too.

Here in the south, and particularly in my state, collective bargining of any type from emergency response (police, fire and medic) is illegal. We have the FOP and PBA and the other one but they are more organizations than lobbying groups. When I raised my hand and swore to uphold the laws of my state and jurisdiction, there was nothing in there about "my pay" or "cost of living". We ALL swore to do this to help those who could not help themselves and to but scum and trash where it belongs. If you wanted better pay, there were better options.

If we, as civilian employees, believe that the citizens owe us a full pension after 20 years of service (in our state it is 30) for the next 30 years, and then after social security also, we are no better than the leeches that we spend our career locking up. Look at some of the salaries that got this whole thing started? Chiefs making that kind of retirement, thats just stupid.

As for the comment concerning the politicians and assembly members, all the civilian UNIONS and ORGANIZATIONS back them. If you want the politicians to stop getting all the goodies, then quit electing them to office because YOUR union says they will take care of you once they get in.

As for Wisconsin, the governor is making them pay for a PORTION of thier retirement and benefits. Oh, did I leave out that in the 3 years that he has been in office that the state is now in the black? Unions are currently no better than the scum we have in the congress right now.

Like i said, my two cents, from a brother who has 7 years left on a 30 year ride.

Robocop @ 6/8/2012 8:58 AM

The problem that exists now is that many Police retirement plans currently do not require the officer to pay into it. When they retire some Officer make either almost as much or in some cases MORE than they would if they were working! I have no problem with communities changing the pension plans that BOTH contribute a percentage and it is a fair retirement. I think those that are already in place need to be grandfathered in as they were hired with certain promises and those promises need to be honored. I also agree that the FIRST people that should have their retirement plans looked into and adjusted are those of the elected Government politicians and their appointees! For then to retire after something like four or six years at something like 75% or more is foolish and unwarranted.

Chuck @ 6/8/2012 11:49 AM

ill @ 6/7/2012 5:57 PM

Everyone works hard at their job, not just cops. The fact of the matter is these pensions are unsustainable, period. It doesn't matter how much you want, need, or deserve something, if the money is not there to pay for it, you're not going to get it. It is just that simple. Show me where in the private sector you can retire with full medical and dental for you and your entire family after just 20 years service? This should not have gone on as long as it has. To think it can continue to go on is foolish and unrealistic. Anyone who understands economics 101 can see it....except government workers. They soon will, like it or not.

Bill, I have no idea where you got or get your information form but you are way freaking wrong, that is unless you have cops confused with congress or the rest of the politicians. I have been a cop for about 25 years, have had a number of chiefs and have worked for three departments. I am now a commander in my current department, not once in any of my jobs (past or present) have I ever been told nor has there ever been an indication that I would ever have medical benefits for me and my entire family. That sir is straight bulls#!+ and a very misleading statement. If this is what is being put out to the public it is no wonder they are so quick to jump all over our retirement. And seriously, the private sector, how many CEO's have retired after only a few years with millions and lifetime medical.

Thor @ 6/9/2012 4:30 PM

So after 3 PD's in 2 states I retired. One thing I did with my time was to sell life insurance. You all whining about the danger of the job and the life expectancy might be aware that insurance company's establish a premium rate based on your job. Cops pay no increase in premium over the CPA that takes light right to his office and shuffles paper all day. Fireman are a different story. Their premiums are higher. Just thought you would like to know the viewpoint of acturaries. Combat pay is not justified. Thor

Rob @ 6/9/2012 7:37 PM

"Just thought you would like to know the viewpoint of actuaries."

Not really, Thor...but thanks....for getting out of police work...

James @ 6/11/2012 5:54 AM

I think the way you make retirement adjustments is "from this point forward" when changing pensions. Anyone who has entered any profession or business, dedicated themselves for years of service only to have their pensions adjusted (usually reduced) after they retire, is a devastating act. People plan their lives and careers around what was understood when they began that job.

Most of us who have been in the profession for decades (I’m in my 33rd year), plan to live our retired years based upon the dollar amount promised to us when we began our careers. Let’s not change the rules after the game (of life in law enforcement) has begun. After all, those in the U.S. Congress can complete one four (4) year term and retire on the current salary the rest of their lives. If we need to balance state and federal government budgets, consider changes as this level as a beginning to a balance budget amendment.

Lt. Tjb @ 6/12/2012 6:36 PM

Do you think these knuckleheads will figure it out when NO ONE is applying to be a cop or join the fire dept., or educate their stupid kids?
That's the main reason anyone puts up with all the BULL over the years is to provide for themselves and families later. If you want to treat me like your average private sector worker then I'll go work there, and not miss holidays, birthdays, weddings, ball games, dance recitals etc. because I'm working. Get someone else to put up with all that crap. I can take care of myself and my family if someone kicks in my back door. Who'ls going to take care of YOU yuppie scum when you call 911 and NO ONE is there to come. Good luck.

Joey Tang @ 12/31/2012 2:00 PM

@John Doe- "I will say, aside from all that, I am proud to be in Federal law enforcement and have been since I began my career in 1985, I will continue to protect and defend the Constitution no matter what you say or think."

The constitution was created to restrict the federal government from becoming huge. Our founding fathers wanted the federal government to stay small. Instead we have a federal agency for every little thing and its killing us. The government collects 1 trillion in taxes they spend 2. the next year they collect 1.5 and spend 3. The year after that they collect 2 spend 4. The government continues to get bigger and spend double what they take in. That`s why we`re 16.3 trillion dollars in debt. Funny how you work for the government John and claim to "Defend the constitution". When everything about today`s federal government is unconstitutional. And you take orders from them. If you`re a true constitutionalists john you would quit your jobs and find something where you actually contribute to society. Instead of leaching off the taxpayers. Like me. I work for a steel casting company. The products i make are put on ships that travel all around the world to deliver products. That`s contributing to society. Working for a bloated federal government and complaining about the pay? You sound like a clown. Time to trim some fat people.

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