Council to Vote on Disability Retirement Rules

A proposal making its way to the City Council this week would relax some of the disability retirement rules for public safety workers imposed by voter-approved pension reforms.

The ordinance would guarantee that cops and firefighters who get hurt in the line of duty yet don’t qualify for retirement under Measure B rules would get a desk job with the same pay. For example, an injured patrol officer who normally earns $46.73 an hour would make just as much as a dispatcher, though the position normally maxes out at $35.19 an hour.

San Jose’s police union blames the reform measure’s restrictions on disability retirements for scaring away officers to other cities. The San Jose Police Department’s sworn-officer force shrank from more than 1,400 to less than 800 over the past several years. And a growing number of new recruits leave for other departments right after academy training.

The disability pension reforms in Measure B followed a 2011 audit that pointed to abuses in the system. The internal investigation found that 40 percent of cops and 66 percent of firefighters claimed disability retirements—some of the highest rates in the state.

But Councilman Don Rocha says the disability pension issue is only part of the problem. The entire city has trouble attracting and retaining employees, he says in a memo going before the council Tuesday. Staffing shortages continue to plague the wastewater treatment plant, the dispatch center and the planning and finance departments where some positions have remained vacant for years.

“These are just a few examples—there are many more,” Rocha writes. “How could anyone deny that we have a severe problem across the entire organization, or chalk it all up to the police union? Is the Police union scaring away electricians and planners too?”

Part of the reason people pass up working for the city is because the retirement age is a decade older than comparable public agencies, he says.

“Is it realistic to expect a highly qualified candidate to delay their retirement for the privilege of working in San Jose?” he asks.

That dynamic affects more than just the police recruitment, he continues. With the exception of the housing director, every current department head was appointed to the job. In many cases, the city eschewed outside recruitment altogether because qualified candidates didn’t want to accept an older retirement age along with other reduced benefits.

“We're the ones who put Measure Bon the ballot, we should also be the ones who fix it,” writes Rocha, who was among the council majority that moved to put the reforms on the 2012 ballot. “Our residents shouldn't have to wait for new leadership in January to solve this problem.”

For more from this week's council agenda, click here.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk. 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. Forgot to add if Rose thinks changing the disability clause in Measure B will bring officers BACK who have left for better pay and benefits then she must be under the influence of some fantasy drug. No one will come back and you only got 29 for the new academy class. Did you not see how many OAKLAND graduated. Were are talking OAKLAND where a murder occurs just about every night.

    This is just a stunt for those running for the mayors seat. No officer is going to fill a dispatchers chair. Come on lets get real about solving this problem. Disability retirements are a joke, most work at their job until the last day and then claim “I got hurt”, go ask Constant. Granted this is just a 50% tax break but it reflects on all of us who suffered on the job but did the right think. The retirement board needs to stop this crap and back room deals. And NO, public safety do not get 90% at retirement because no one wants to serve 30 years in this city.

  2. I am proud to have voted for Measure B and I have no regrets whatsoever. I guarantee you that some of us have experienced way more extreme and hellish situations (when I was in the first gulf war’s initial push and then during the past decades’ conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan…battle for Fallujah and battle for Marjah) when I served The United States of America as a U.S Marine, than the majority of the cops at SJPD (even some prior service SJPD officers as well).

    However, I do not undermine or degrade their service to our community. On the contrary, I respect them and commend them for such.

    I just do not agree that they should be getting better perks all because they (POA) got greedy.

    Again, I respect what they do and what they stand for but I cannot (and will not) support a group of individuals who feel a certain “entitlement” that is not at the same level as that of OVERALL service to an ENTIRE nation, its interests and entire citizenry.

    Nevertheless, both the City of San Jose and the emergency service Labor Unions MUST compromise and they must set aside their personal bias and agendas for the overall good of our city. Until then, our city’s protection will continue to suffer all because a group (POA) wants more and isn’t willing to compromise and the other is getting cheap (City of San Jose).

    • Chesty, you were obviously a graduate of the strong back, weak mind school of civics. Obvious because you fail to mention that military personnel receive free lodging, clothing, meals, and education, in addition to a guaranteed pension after 20 years of service. Are you suggesting we eliminate those provisions or provide those same provisions to the defenders of our public safety?
      Not to mention that 10 pull-ups , 40 push-ups, and a mile and a half run were all the qualifications you needed to join the Marine corp. Not really the qualifications people expect as a community caretaker entrusted to protect your family as well as be compassionate, articulate, thoughtful, and professional. Even you can admit that not every serviceman or woman is qualified to be a peace officer in a civilized society as opposed to a war zone with rules of engagement and restrictions against independent thought. Come on private, push-ups are great, but so are books.

      • It is obvious you have no idea of what it takes or what it is like to serve in the Armed Forces (it’s spelled United States Marine Corps there silly) Captain ‘Oblivious’. A service member is “government property” and Uncle Sam can do what it wants with such personnel. So, of course Uncle Sam is going to take care of its “assets”. The highest salary a career Marine (enlisted, vast majority of marine veterans) can make is $4,896mo (1st Sgt/Master Sgt) or $5,673mo if you’re are Sergeant Major. And that is active duty mind you, after 20 YEARS of service! During those 20 years a Marine has the opportunity to lead at least 15 other of his peers and up to a Battalion (1300 troops) or Regiment (3000-5000 troops), not just in garrison BUT DURING WAR.

        The physical fitness standards for the Marine Corps are: run 3 miles in 18minutes or less, do 20 pull-ups and 100 sit-ups in less than 2 minutes. What you’ve described is the ARMY standards (not even minimum) for their physical fitness. And trust me, I’m not even going into MOS (military occupational specialty = career) capacity, capability and execution.

        You say: “Not really the qualifications people expect as a community caretaker entrusted to protect your family as well as be compassionate, articulate, thoughtful, and professional.”


        Huh…so having the courage to serve your nation (millions of people) during a time of war, be entrusted to protect it (again, millions of people), protect human beings, such as women in a part of the world that only sees them as a reproductive system and not a human being, be in-charge of operating and maintaining equipment worth millions of dollars and work as an ‘ambassador’ of your nation and its interests does not take into consideration being thoughtful, articulate and professional? Not to mention, if you’re in a high leadership position, you’re responsible for thousands of lives.

        Wow! You’re quite ignorant. Good job in picking your name of “Captain Oblivious’ because that’s exactly what you are…oblivious.

        Oh! And get this…the vast majority of service members providing you the ‘right’ and ‘privilege’ to make idiotic statements such as the one you’ve made are between 19 and 24 years old. Yeah…sort of funny how our nations protection is wholeheartedly entrusted to a bunch of kids isn’t it?

        Indeed, not every service member is capable of being a peace officer. However, I guarantee you that not every SJPD officer is capable of being entrusted with an entire nations protection and mere existence.

        FYI: Nation 300+ million > Community (SJ) 984,299 as of January 2013.

        Last note: Starting Salary at SJPD is $5,769mo ($75,000yr) and the most an officer will get to be is Chief and be in-charge of a department as low as 800 (current) or as high as 1400 (six years ago). That’s a HUGE difference from being in-charge of 1300 troops (minimum for a battalion) to 5,000 troops (maximum for a regiment) not only in garrison, but WAR. Oh! And the retirement for service members is capped at 45% as opposed to 90%.

        You’re welcome.

    • I guess some people are thick headed. So much hate for the unions distorts rational thinking. Millions spent instead of millions saved.

      Furthermore Chester, there is a difference between a soldier and a police officer. In this day and age the soldier is fighting a war for freedom and against terrorism. The officer is fighting crime and defending the Constitution. The similarities are few, but in my book the respect is the same. The soldier is fighting for the same freedom that the police officer is trying to protect here at home. Check out some of the stats. Officers are fighting a war right here in the US. (The casualties are far less of course and the urine stained streets of downtown San Jose aren’t the streets of Fallujah.)

      Lastly, thank you to all veterans from every war. Without their sacrifice, civilians and police officers a like would cease to exist in the way we know today.

  3. The definition of disability under measure B is virtually identical to the one used by the Social Security Administration for decades to determine whether or not to award a person permanent disability benefits. Why should anyone, cops included, get a more liberal definition of disability than the one used nationwide? Public employees have become accustomed to more liberal benefits than anyone else gets. They need to be brought back to market reality, since they won’t do it on their own.

    • Market reality check: San Jose Firefighters and Police Officers rank 40th in pay of any large City, Disability claims and workers comp guidelines are the WORST of any large City, Firefighters and Police Officers offer a specialized skill set which is unavailable on the common market, which increases the value of the services as compared to the private sector. The problem is, you seem to think that the mantra of “everyone is special” applies to public safety, and that anyone can do the job. Not only is that wrong thinking, its the type of thinking that got us into this mess in the first place. Why cant you admit that they truly ARE special people, dedicated to a job that has the potential of killing them in the short AND long run? I think they have much more to worry about than paper cuts and carpal-tunnel.

    • Negative , read it again . Under measure B , No one can or will qualify for a disability retirement again . the city just has to prove that a police officer who has been paralyzed from the waist down can wheel himself around and pick up garbage. Thats all it takes , there does not have to be an offer of employment. so they can be fired with no disability and no social security .
      with the new provisions , employees can be moved to any job the city has. But read the fine print , do they take their seniority with them or do they start fresh at the bottom of the list. and if so , that means they will be laid off first and again with no disability and no social security . does that seem right for those employees that put their lives on the line every single day for the residents of san jose?

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