Why Phoenix Can’t Hire More Police Officers
Why Phoenix can’t hire more officers
Editorial board, The Republic | azcentral.com – March 29, 2014
Our View: Expensive pensions, overly generous board divert tax money away from full staffing
To understand why Phoenix cannot afford to hire new police officers, consider this single vote last week.
The Phoenix Police Pension Board [a “local board” of the Arizona Public Safety Personnel Retirement System] voted 4-1 to continue the practice of letting public-safety officers spike their pensions at retirement. It wasn’t much of a surprse. The board includes two police officers, including the union’s contract negotiator.
They convinced a retired judge and a community member to support a policy that clearly contravenes state law defining compensation. It takes great creativity to read into the plain language of the statute that compensation incudes uniform allowances. The law specifically prohibits cashing in unused sick and vacation time for the purpose of inflating a pension, but the board voted to continue the practice.
This spiking has allowed nearly five dozen public safety retirees to collect annual pensions of $100,000. Nearly 100 walked away with lump sum payments of more than $500,000.
That, along with other sweetheart pension rules, have drastically increased the city’s costs. It now contributes an amount equal to one-third of police and fire salaries toward their pensions. Nearly half of next year’s projected budget deficit is attributable to the increased funding demands of pensions.
A few days ago, our colleague E.J. Montini quoted a letter from a police officer reporting that morale is low in part because the department is understaffed. Indeed it is.
When the city is required to pour so much money into keeping a pension system afloat, it has that much less to hire new officers. The 4-1 majority on the pension board [ the PSPRS “local board”] did its part last week to make sure that doesn’t change.