Page One

Police force turns over

By Chris Nichols, Daily Planet Staff
Friday June 14, 2002

The Berkeley Police Department this year will lose approximately 10 percent of its force to retirement when 12 officers – the largest group in recent memory – retire in July, and 10 more retire after that. 

The losses to the department, in part, stem from a statewide early retirement program made available with the January passage of SB90. Under the new law, public safety officers are eligible for retirement between the ages of 50 and 55 and can receive a pension of up to 90 percent of their pay.  

According to Berkeley Police Chief Dash Butler, who will be retiring from the force July 12, after 31 years of service, the new retirement program will provide officers a strong benefits program.  

“It’s a great package,” he said. “There’s no doubt it’s a great package.” 

While BPD has increased efforts to recruit and train new officers, the mass retirement will leave the department with a loss of experience and knowledge of the community.  

Currently195 officers are working at the BPD. 

Sgt. Patricia Delaluna, head of personnel training, says the retiring officers will take with them experience and respect that many younger officers have not yet achieved.  

“A lot of these officers have gained the respect of the community and people know they can count on them,” Delaluna said. “A veteran officer has gone through a lot in his or her day. They are working with the younger officers to train them for certain experiences but the real thing is hard to duplicate.” 

According to Delaluna, retiring officers take with them an understanding of how to respond to particularly difficult situations such as the 1990 hostage standoff at Henry’s Pub, when a mentally-ill suspect held 33 people hostage, killed one person and wounded an officer.  

Ten new officers will join the BPD after graduating from the Sacramento Police Department Academy on Friday. Ten more recruits have been selected for a July academy program and the department is selecting additional recruits for September training.  

According to Delaluna, the department chooses graduates from the Sacramento Academy because of its high level of training and professionalism.  

“We choose [Sacramento Academy graduates] because of the extreme professionalism,” Delaluna said. “We consider the Sacramento Academy to be the best in the state and feel that the officers come out at a much higher level than anywhere else. We have had a very happy relationship with them.” 

Officers at the Sacramento Academy receive 1,080 hours of training compared with 800 hours of training at the Contra Costa County Academy says Delaluna.  

City Manager Weldon Rucker says the department is in a constant state of recruitment. Currently, Berkeley is in direct competition with other cities while a statewide shortage of officers exists. According to Rucker, the department is selective, and is hoping to recruit officers that are both aware of and sensitive to the diverse and progressive population of Berkeley. 

Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean said public safety departments throughout the state are feeling the effects of early retirement.  

“The state legislature opened the door for it, and now it’s a bargaining unit that every department in the state has picked up,” Dean said. 

Another explanation for the large number of retirements in July is that many were hired together about 30 years ago. Back then the department went on a hiring spree in response to protests and riots of the ‘60s. 

Many of the officers, in fact, served 30 years or more and are eligible for retirement under the previous program. 

Delaluna says her orders are to “hire, hire, hire.” 

But the department does not have plans to expand its staff past 205 officers. 

Increased efforts have been made to advertise openings for officer positions. Salaries for patrol officers range from $64,000 to $80,000.  

City officials say they’re confident the department will be able to train and recruit future officers, and that the retirements will not threaten public safety or diminish the services it already provides. But, officials say, the loss of experience still holds significance. 


Contact reporter at