Police Academy Exodus Could Cost $2.9 Million; POA Asks Retirees to Refuse Jobs

Nearly half of the San Jose Police Academy’s new graduating class plans to leave for other departments, according to union leaders. And until the city offers a better disability plan to new police recruits, the Police Officers Association (POA) says it will continue encouraging cadets to find work elsewhere.

“Until the disability pension is fixed, it seems unethical to ask them to stay,” says Jim Unland, POA president. “How can you ethically expect someone to do police work if they’re seriously injured and we don’t have their back?”

Unland says at least 17 of the 40 cadets in the latest graduating class have already sought work in Hayward, Oakland, Stockton and other cities.

“I suspect there’s more,” he says. “I can’t blame them. It’s the second-tier pension, specifically the disability component. If the officer is seriously hurt, under that plan, that officer could find themselves unable to support themselves and their family.”

The city spends $170,000 to hire and train cadets, according to city spokesman David Vossbrink. He couldn’t confirm the 17 figure because the city only finds out about recruits applying for other agencies when they get a request for a background check. But if that many cadets jump ship, it would mean the city wasted $2.89 million to train them.

“We are aware of at least one officer taking another job and five are in the pipeline to be backgrounded,” Vossbrink says. “We certainly are not fond of the notion of training recruits for other departments.”

Some of those job-seeking cadets found leads at a job fair hosted in August by the POA, Unland says. Plus, recruiters who were reaching out to active officers were put in touch with just-graduated cadets.

One of the changes brought on by Measure B‘s passage last year is seriously injured officers who are not yet eligible for retirement are required to apply for a civilianized job in the department before qualifying for disability. If there is no job the officer can do in the department because of their disability, only then will they begin receiving disability retirement. Unland calls it one of the most restrictive policies in the state.

For the past two years, the city’s lost about 100 officers a year. , As a result, sworn staff has shrunk from 1,400 to a little more than 1,000.

Unland says the POA shouldn’t be blamed for the continued exodus of officers, even if the union is encouraging people to leave.

“It’s not the POA’s fault,” he says. “It’s the second-tier pension plan that can leave these guys high and dry if they’re hurt.”

Despite the exodus, the city hasn’t officially considered establishing an agreement with academy recruits that would require them to stay for a defined period of time after they graduate.

“Some other cities have done it,” Vossbrink says. “But I’m not aware of whether San Jose will do anything about that.”

In addition to encouraging new cadets to find work elsewhere, the union recently urged retired members to ignore the city’s job offers to ex-officer. The city wants trained professionals to perform background checks on new hires. Last year, the city hired two outside firms to form contracts with ex-officers to do the work. Now the city will directly contract out that work with retired SJPD officers.

Unland called the program a “breach in trust, brotherhood and solidarity.”

“With every outsourced position, an active officer is bumped,” he wrote in a message to union members.

Alex Gurza, a deputy city manager and lead negotiator for the city, countered that statement in a letter to Unland, asserting that the POA’s alert contained “inaccuracies and misinformation.”

“In order to reduce costs and achieve efficiencies, the Department plans to hire retired San Jose Police Officers directly in temporary non-sworn employee classifications,” Gurza wrote. “This will not result in layoffs or bumping of any active police officers, as you incorrectly indicated in your membership alert and will continue to allow us to have more Police Officers on the street. This new process will not supplant or civilianize any existing authorized positions in the Police Department. Current staffing levels will not allow the Police Department to utilize sworn personnel to conduct background investigations as done in the past.”

Gurza adds that hiring retired San Jose cops as consultants was an effort to keep more officers on patrol instead of bogging them down with administrative work.

“We also want to be clear that there is no intent to ‘manipulate and divide’ as you indicated in your alert,” Gurza wrote. “The police department’s intent is to have as many police officers as possible on patrol and not performing functions that could otherwise be performed by non-sworn employees. Your intent to undermine this goal by telling retired police officers not to sign up for these positions is apparent in your email.”

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to jenniferw@metronews.com or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

21 Comments

  1. Having served 30 years it is a joke that the city wants to hire us back as civilian background investigators to replace police officers.

    Shame on you Chuck and his clowns.

  2. Remember the writer is using a Reed tactic calling it the union this the union that.  FOLKS. The union is the less then 1000 cops that are left. It doesn’t matter who tells the new recruits whether it Unland or a veteran cop. ( No veterans with 3o years on the offices quit as soon as they get 25).  All SJPD cops will tell the rookies to get out as quick as they can.

    So do you believe Vossock and Gurza, Schembri, who have been caught in LIES about 650million or does anyone wonder why only in San Jose is ther a problem?  All the other cities have taken care of their police and fire.  Not this bunch of buffoons.  No one wants to work for San Jose, dispatchers leaving, librarians leaving.  Who wants to work for corrupt liars like Liccardo and Reed.

    • There are fewer than 900 officers now, with more leaving on a weekly basis. This is for city that should have at least 2,000 officer based on national averages for police staffing.

      What is even more shocking, and has received little media attention, is the staffing levels have dropped so precipitously and to such dangerous levels in patrol, the detective bureau, already decimated with all but the most heinous crimes investigated, is now being redeployed to uniformed patrol assignments, thus investigating even fewer cases.

  3. Oakland & LA clawback training costs for those that dine & dash at their academies. Believe Oakland is 5 years, not sure about LAPD.

    Seems like SJ should offer a hiring bonus for experienced officers, implement an academy cost clawback, and offer a retention payout to keep experienced staff from retiring.

    The combined cost would seeme much cheaper than the millions blown on early departures.

    • Are you brain dead, no lateral officer (unless they were fired) would ever apply to SJPD.  And buy into this stupid retirement system.  You could almost make more money at flipping burgers.  OK that is a reach but at least you are not risking your life on each shift to protect you.

      Chuck, Sam and the rest could care less about your public safety but want a ball park that will never come.

  4. Several contracts ago, the Police & Fire Associations were bargaining withe the City over a program that would rehire retired workers at a given pay rate with no benefits.  The so-called “Drop” program was fought tooth and nail by the City and I believe ultimately lead to arbitration.  In hindsight, it was the beginning of the City’s efforts to dismantle Public Safety as it ended up splitting bargaining and the use of arbitration was thereafter vilified.  Reed and Gurza have schemed to injure San Jose workers for nearly a decade, and all along the Associations have tried to implement programs that save money.  The Drop program would have been around for many years already by now, but now that City needs it- they want to impose it.

  5. Unland says at least 17 of the 40 cadets in the latest graduating class have already sought work in Hayward, Oakland, Stockton and other cities.

    These people are leaving after getting trained on San Jose’s dime?  I wonder how people without a moral compass are going to do in places like Oakland and Stockton?  I’m guessing they’ll probably do pretty well for themselves.

    I also wonder if the 23 that are staying are the runts of the litter, or the ones with honor.  It’s something that people are going to be thinking.  I’m wondering the same thing about the veteran cops that are still here.

    Great job POA!

    • What is immoral is these recruits being told 3 months into their 6 month academy that they disability plan the got hired into is being changed from one that would cover them if permanently hurt at work, to one where they would be fired after a year if they could not get back to work. They were lied to by the city.

    • If “honor” is that important to you, I’m sure you’re as appalled as I am by the city’s refusal to honor longstanding promises made to, and relied upon by, officers who have given the bulk of their working lives to city service. I’m sure you join me in condemning those who have knowingly and intentionally created a system under which officers seriously injured while performing their often dangerous duties are potentially left out in the cold. If you are truly a person of “honor,” you certainly couldn’t be a supporter of Reed, Liccardo, Constant and the rest, because it is a quality which they lack completely. I’m glad we agree.

      • “Potentially left out in the cold”.  I agree with the part about “potentially”.  The reality is that they will not be left out in the cold.

        Reference “retired” fire captain Mark Skeen.  Mr. Skeen was fired for lying on an expense report.

        http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_15774954

        *After* he was fired, he applied for a “disability pension”.  Here’s a link to the hearing:

        http://sanjose.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=4704

        Note that Rose Herrera and Sam Licardo were on the board that voted unanimously to grant a “disability pension” to Mr. Skeen.

        So if someone that seems to have been capable of working, and was actually on the job *before* he was canned, can turn around and ask for a “disability pension” *after* having been canned, you have to wonder if anyone with a legit disability would be left out in the cold.

        • Your citations couldn’t be more irrelevant, as all of that happened under the prior rules, not the system Measure B would create. The language of Measure B speaks for itself.

        • I’m sure that language in Measure B is just because of Skeen, but it isn’t going change the way the retirement board approaches its job.  I really believe that new hires have nothing to worry about.

        • How can you say that.  Here is how it works under Measure B: a police officer disabled in the line of duty may only get disability retirement if there is no job in the city he can do.  So if there is a job he can do but the position is not available he gets no job and no disability.  And if the job is for far less pay, there is no partial disability payment to make up for the lost wages he suffers because he gave his life for all intents and purposes for the citizens and city.  No other city does this.  Why would anyone stay when the city has the ability to and will say we are very sorry—although you are qualified for a menial job there are no openings so you don’t have a job of any kind and you don’t get disability.

    • If accurate, I too find it inexcusable that recruits weren’t notified earlier, but not clear who’s responsible. Is this a SJPD responsibility, HR, other?

      Could someone please explain the disability grievance?

      As I understand it, cops are required to resume work if able to work in order to collect disability pay. They then get a pay differential. The assignment could be light duty to accommodate their situation.

      I believe this mirrors the situation in private industry too.

      What am I missing? Please provide a link that explains this if easier than a long explanation.
      Thanks.

      • As to your first question, the city made the determination, or at least announced that they had made the determination that recruits would be part of Tier 2 after they had already started the police academy. Recruits did not know this when they accepted the job. With regard to your disability question, did you vote for Measure B? If so, did you read it?

        Measure B states that, in order to receive a disability pension, a police officer or fire fighter must be unable to perform “any other jobs in the City’s classification plan in the employee’s department…” It also states that “the determination of qualification for a disability retirement shall be made regardless of whether there are other positions available at the time a determination is made.” In other words, if a disabled officer is still capable of performing a menial, low-paying job, there would be no disability retirement and no pay differential. That’s assuming such a job was available. If there was no such job available, the officer would get nothing. Zero.

        Low pay, the worst retirement plan in the state and potentially no protection if an officer is seriously injured while performing an often dangerous job…and Reed, Liccardo, et. al. blame the POA for the exodus? The full text Measure B:

        http://arnoldfoundation.org/sites/default/files/courtDocs/CALIFORNIA-SAN-JOSE-Measure-B.pdf

    • No Man Jose, The City is also screwing engineers and architects as well. After new hires witnessed first hand how the City negotiated with them over the latest contract, they too now recognize that everything they had heard was true.  Many of them are contemplating leaving for other agencies, and with the guidance of veteran engineers. 

      How does this hurt you and San Jose citizens?  Fewer people to design and deliver capital projects, including street paving projects, updated parks and updating of the Water Pollution Control Plant, to review development plans and issue permits, and to collect those fees, to bring BART and other mass transit projects into the City.  You name it, it takes over 200 engineers and architects to deliver that.  Sure, Council will talk to staff and direct them to hire contract staff to fill the voids, but it still takes City staff to also manage contract staff.