The Fraternal Order of Police is warning there will be an exodus of sworn officers if the budget currently being considered by the D.C. Council is approved tomorrow.
Kristopher Baumann, chairman of the local FOP labor committee, predicted hundreds of officers would leave this year because of proposed changes to retiree health benefits. Making matters worse, Baumann said, the Council appears poised to also support a budget provision limiting the number of new officers who can be hired next year to save money.
"I have spent the past three years fighting to stabilize the staggering attrition rate the Department faces," Baumann wrote in a letter to Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D). "Passage of this portion of the Act will undo every bit of work I have done."
Currently, according to Baumann, the District pays 75 percent of police and fire retirees' health benefits, as well as 60 percent of their spouses'. But Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) has proposed changes to that formula. As a result, Baumann said, retirees will not get city-funded health insurance until they turn 62, at which time their benefits will be based on a formula tied to years of service.
"I don't think you can get back up to 75 percent," Baumann said in an interview.
If the budget is approved, Baumann said nearly 300 officers approaching retirement age would leave the force before the changes go into effect in October so they can collect their current health benefit.
"Has the cost and impact of losing another 300 police officers immediately been reviewed?" he asked Gray.
Baumann added officers are furious that the proposal was made outside the traditional collective bargaining process.
"We would consider it cataclysmic," Baumann said. "It would be the de facto end of collective bargaining in the city and would greatly accelerate the attrition rate of police officers."
The Council budget may also include a provision that would curtail the hiring of new officers. Some officers could still be hired next year under the federal COPS program, but the city would restrict how much it spent on hiring and training.
But the police force was spared from even deeper cuts. During Wednesday's budget negotiations, a few council members threw out the possibility of making more substantial reductions in public safety to avoid a tax increase, but they were quickly overruled.