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Pension plan is shrinking police forces

By Kerry Eleveld Special to the Daily Planet
Monday September 10, 2001

The Berkeley and Oakland police departments are negotiating with therespective cities for a new pension benefit called 3 percent at 50, which has already been enacted in 147 other agencies statewide.  

If adopted, the new formula will allow officers to retire at 3 percent of their salaries times their number of years in the force and will, essentially, expedite the retirement of senior officers.  

“When three percent at fifty kicks in, we stand to lose twelve officers right off the bat,” said Sgt. Patricia Delaluna, head of Berkeley’s personnel and training unit. Berkeley’s force is about 190 officers strong, Delaluna estimated. Beyond the initial loss of 12 officers, she said the department could lose another 30 to 40 people during the first year the enhanced benefit goes into effect. 

In the Bay Area, Alameda, Concord, El Cerrito, Fremont, Hayward, Pittsburgh, Walnut Creek, and the University of California Police already have the program in place. Retired Capt. David Swim, a Ph.D. in Public Administration who has been tracking the new plan, estimates that about 15 to 20 agencies per quarter have signed on since it was first made available in January of 2000. 

Sgt. Jon Madarang, who supervises the Oakland Police Department’s background investigation and recruitment unit, said he began hearing about 3 percent at 50 almost five years ago, but didn’t see it start to surface until about two years ago.