Incentive package to hold off police retirements – a good idea?

So one of the things Ron Dellums proposed to address the police staffing issue in his State of the City address last week was to put together an incentive package to keep senior officers eligible for retirement on as field trainers. I didn’t say much about it in my post on his speech, mostly because I wasn’t really sure what I thought of it. A week later, I’m still not sure.

First, I’m not even sure it will make much of a difference.

Okay. In November, Captain Chief Tucker told the City Council that they currently had 50 officers eligible for retirement. And here’s what the report (PDF!) from the police department attached to that item said about field training:

In a best case scenario, OPD can maintain 50 Field Training Officers (FTO) who can accommodate 30 to 35 trainees at a time for the 15 week field training program. OPD can run three 15 week field training cycles for a total potential output of 90 to 105 officers at the maximum, ff OPD were to graduate either a larger academy class or two classes simultaneously there would be police officers who could not begin field training due to the lack of FTOs. These officers would have to be assigned desk duties under the direct supervision of a veteran police officer until such time as an FTO is available for assignment. The FTO Coordinator has spoken with numerous FTOs concerning the training program and the impact the proposed change to 12 hour shifts might have. The coordinator stated a significant number of FTOs have indicated they would no longer be willing to serve as FTOs and/or could not guarantee the same high quality training. Many FTOs already spend one to two hours after their regularly assigned shift to assist trainee officers complete reports and other paperwork. They would be unwilling to work any additional hours after a 12 hour shift. With the profile of OPD’s officers becoming younger and younger, it is harder to find enough FTOs to meet the qualification matrix requirements established in the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA). As Council is aware, OPD cannot compromise or change the NSA mandated minimum qualifications for appointment as an FTO. To do so may compromise the quality of training the officer-in-training would receive.

So I guess the idea here is that if you can bribe the retirement-eligible officers to stay on as field trainers, we would increase the capacity of the field training program, and therefore be able to add new officers to the force more quickly.

Now, if you ran concurrent academies of 60 each, assuming a 30% attrition rate (better than our current average of 39.3%, because I’m assuming that the pre-Academy training program will help lower attrition), then that would give you 84 POTs who need field training once they graduate. 30 to 35 trainees can be trained by 50 officers. So I guess the idea is that if you could keep all the retirement eligible officers on (seems unlikely), that would double the amount of POTs we’re able to train at once, bringing the total to 70 trainees at a time. I also wonder what kind of incentive package he’s talking about here. I would imagine that if you’re ready for retirement, you’ve got your pension lined up, and presumably some sort of savings, how much would it take in the form of a bonus to convince you to stay on? I mean, at that point, I don’t know that an extra couple thousand dollars or so would be worth it to me to stay on for – how long? a year? two years?. (I’m not near retirement age, so I could be completely wrong about that.)

Okay, so after reading all that, I’m not even sure that this plan will work practically, but that also isn’t really my question. Assuming they can figure out a way to work out the details and convince enough retirement-eligible officers to stay on as field trainers to make a difference – what I’m not sure of is if this plan is even a good idea.

I guess it depends on what your priority is. If the goal is to do whatever we can improve the officer totals on the force as soon as possible, then yes, I can see how bribing older officers to stay a little longer makes sense. Decreasing force attrition while at the same time being able to train new officers more quickly = getting to 803 faster. And I do want us to get there.

But if your goal is to address future staffing issues for the police department in a sustainable way, it seems to me that the money we would be spending on the incentive package for retirement-eligible officers would be better spent on the front end – creating a incentive package for new officers to join the force. Would the money you’d be spending to keep an older officer on the force for maybe one year be better spent as a hiring bonus that would get you an officer who would in theory remain in the department for much longer? Using the money this way, it might take longer to get to 803, but it seems like it would be better in the long-term. In his speech, Dellums condemned the Council and Jerry Brown for the short-sightedness of the 2002 hiring freeze, but I have this nagging feeling that this proposal is equally short-sighted.

On the other hand, something Bob Valladon talks about in his TagamiVision interview is that their force is very young, and not having enough experience officers available to help new officers get accustomed to the work is an issue for OPD. So maybe letting them go is the short-sighted approach after all.

I’m really not sure what to think about this one. Readers’ perspectives are welcome.

2 thoughts on “Incentive package to hold off police retirements – a good idea?

  1. incredibledaze

    Well frankly you need both; retention for older officers and recruitment for newer officers. We must find a way to retain experienced police. One way is moving them to field training.
    Another longer term goal is workforce housing; i.e. Affordable Housing targeted towards the police after say, maintaining a certain number of years on the force, so there is a direct benefit to their service which would retain them from switching to others who want to lure them away, would add numbers to the force and improve their understanding and involvement in the communities they serve.

  2. len raphael

    sounds like we’re stuck hiring back recently retired cops as consultants so they can double dip: get their full retirement plus get paid as consultants at least as much as what they made as employees w/o the benefits.

    cops are paid well enough to live within an hour commute of oakland. they retire early because it’s they’re stressed and stretched, not underpaid.

    btw, still haven’t heard any explanation (except that cops don’t want civilians investigating them) why we can’t replace at 10 of the 20+ cops in IA with civilians. hire a bunch of recent law school grads for two year contracts till the Rider’s settlement expires.