“Gang experts are moving on. Homicide detectives that have been in the unit for years are moving on. Narcotics officers are moving on. So, we’ve lost a lot of experience here at the police department just because they’re leaving for better pay and benefit packages.”
–Joe Silva, Stockton Police spokesman.
The decimated police force – slashed by 99 thanks to the shriveled budget — is down 20 more thanks to police who took jobs elsewhere. And 40 more are expected to leave for greener pastures in the coming year.
Some officers say the specter of pension cuts is impelling their departure. That is a curious rationale. The city has said it will not cut pensions. These cops must be worried Wall Street will compel pension cuts in bankruptcy court. However, the likelihood (though impossible to determine with certainty) is the city will prevail. It will preserve pensions, precisely because it can show that further cuts to employee compensation are a knife to the heart of a functioning municipality. If the judge balks, they can walk him down East Park Street at midnight.
Pensions are only one issue, of course. Police have other reasons to leave. Valid ones, sad to say.
Stockton officials are pleading with Gov. Brown and the legislature for statewide pension reform. That could level the playing field so Stockton can retain officers. But pension reform for active employees seems unlikely. The state seems to be considering a two-tier system that largely preserves existing compensation for active employees and creates lower compensation only for new hires.
So how will this city ever compete to retain or hire experienced officers? Who will train the rookies? How bad can it get in Stockton?