California Police Chief- Fall 2013 - Page 5

“ The new law completely changes the structure of what constitutes retirement for the next generation of police officers ” work patrol to the end of their career, or are forced to work in the field due to reduced staffing from budget cuts. There’s no science that says the right retirement age is 57 or 55, but we believe that the higher age set point will result in more injuries and disability claims, and that such increased costs that come with this could well exceed any of the savings anticipated by pension reform, therefore negating any benefits the governor believes will be enjoyed under the new system. I believe that relying on savings from setting the retirement age at a higher level is a false economy, in which the cost of Worker’s Compensation and disability claims likely will exceed any of the anticipated savings. Q. You mentioned the impact Gov. Brown’s pension reforms will have on recruitment. Can you elaborate? A. Law enforcement still is an attractive profession, but these changes will reduce that attractiveness. People recognize a value in a stable retirement because of the sacrifices they make in their profession, and being a police officer often involves long hours and working weekend shifts — not to mention the danger officers face on the job. If that benefit is dramatically reduced, I can imagine bright, capable candidates re-evaluating their interest in this most important form of public service. Q. Do you believe the reforms will cause a ‘brain drain’ among higher-ranking officers? A. Most provisions of the new law don’t affect current employees, except for them being mandated to pick up an increased share of pension payments. Those increases become effective in 2018, but could be phased in over five years; so, for example,  | Behind The Badge BTB-Magazine-Fall2012.indd 8-9 an officer paying 9 percent now will eventually be paying 12 percent. Officers who pay a lower amount resulting from prior negotiations with their employer will be moved even more. The point is, at some point, these changes will have an impact on the paychecks of all officers. Surveys we at Cal Chiefs have conducted show that a large number of current employees are very concerned about this increase and are so sensitive to the impacts of the new reforms that it could affect their decision to retire earlier than they would otherwise chose. And the impact on employees hired after January is expected to be significant, especially if it causes talented people to make a financial decision to not promote in the future. Q. What about crime rates? Will AB 340, in any way, have an effect on them? A. I see the timing of pension reform as a troubling mix in the context of other major changes. Crime rates have been on the uptick, especially when it comes to property crimes and some crimes against persons, including violent crimes. We are right now in the midst of another dramatic shift in our justice system with the realignment of public safety to counties through AB 109. Throw in reductions in staffing at law enforcement agencies statewide and an economy still struggling to get back in shape, and I have serious concerns. We have strongly expressed that this is the wrong time to be creating a pension reform dynamic that causes a mass exodus of our most talented and mature public safety leaders exactly at the same time we are trying to manage the effects of realignment. Pension reform is coming at a time when there’s been a sea change is public opinion about the compensation of public-safety employees. Sure, in limited cases we’ve seen instances of excessive benefits, as well as instances of “spiking,” when an employee is given a big raise during the last year of employment to inflate his or her pension. But the perception that excessive benefits are widespread in law enforcement simply is not true. Cal Chiefs has publicly come out in favor of pension reform, but reform done correctly and for the right reasons. These reforms are expected to hurt the profession and we are focused on working to minimize those effects. • The Young Guns of Placer County You wouldn’t mistake John Ruffcorn for being an old-school police chief. One of the first things he did after being sworn in as top cop of Auburn in June 2011 was throw away his business cards are reprint them to read “John Ruffcorn, chief of police.” He doesn’t like the title before his name. “My first name isn’t ‘chief,’’’ he says. Also, whenever possible, Ruffcorn wears a suit and tie to public functions instead of his uniform --- another way of him putting the person before the title. 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