is all counted toward benefits, there’s now a cap on
those benefits. The fact that there’s a cap when there
never was one before is going to fundamentally
limit our ability to recruit and retain the best
More importantly, the cap is going to be seen as a
barrier for our most talented people when it comes
time for them to decide to seek promotion. We think
the cap will be an obstacle that will discourage
some officers from seeking leadership positions.
This cap will force them to decide if they want to
remain officers or sergeants or take on additional
responsibility and exposure to organizational
challenges while accepting a hard limit on their
ultimate retirement benefit.
Q. So what are you and other law enforcement
leaders doing about this?
‘May prove to be one of the most significant changes to the profession in this generation’
With Gov. Jerry Brown’s pension reform act set to
go into effect Jan. 1, law enforcement officials are
mobilizing to remedy some of the changes they
believe will have a negative impact on recruitment,
the ability to retain the best and brightest, and
efforts to keep crime rates down.
Among these changes are a cap on the salary which
will be used to calculate pension benefits for new
employees at $132,120 (increased each year by
a set inflator), and raising the retirement age for
new employees seeking full benefits to 57, from
50 — a change that comes with a reduction in
the maximum-benefit formula. Also, Gov. Brown’s
reforms in AB340 call for new public-safety
employees to contribute at least half of the cost of
their pension system’s normal costs, up to 12% of
Behind The Badge
Scott Seaman, chief of police of Los Gatos and
president of the California Police Chiefs Association,
fielded some questions about what’s become one of
the most significant issues in years to confront law
Q. Just how big of an issue is pension reform as it
relates to law enforcement?
A. This pension reform change is a critical issue that
may prove to be one of the most significant changes
to the profession in this generation, primarily
because it resets benefits in such a way that the longterm impact, at this point, can’t be fully gauged.
The new law completely changes the structure of
what constitutes retirement for the next generation
of police officers. As opposed to the current
retirement structure, when all the work officers do
A. We intend to fight these negative impacts and
are going to pursue legislative remedies and work
to shape the public dialogue. Because this law
was created without meaningful input from law
enforcement or other stakeholders, we hope to
build a coalition to seek to correct some of these
negative impacts. We are now working to fully
understand the consequences of these reforms
— both actual and unintended and will then forge
our long-term strategy to address the impacts.
We plan to craft a legislative strategy that will
outline, in priority, our specific concerns. For us, the
cap on “pensionable salary” of $132,000 is the top
issue. We also believe that setting the retirement age
for full benefits at 57 is too high; we have argued
that it should be set at 55. 57 is simply too old
for the dangers and physical demands of the law
Q. Who’s on this coalition that is fighting these
A. We (CalChiefs) are working with our partners
throughout the state, including the California
State Sheriffs’ Association (CSSA), California
Peace Officers Association (CPOA), Peace Officers
Research Association of California (PORAC), the
California District Attorneys Association (CDAO),
and other agencies. We’re also intending to work
with labor organizations whose members will
definitely be affected by this.
Q. How hopeful are you that you will be
A. It will be challenging, in part because of the
political momentum, which has driven these changes.
Changing the cap will require on-going education
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