Early in this year’s legislative session I was quite shocked to get a telephone call from a former colleague at the Phoenix Police Department who said, “You”ve got to stop the FOP from getting rid of DROP!” After calming my friend, I assured him that nobody was getting rid of DROP, but he insisted it was true and stated he would forward me an e-mail from Jim Mann of the FOP.
Still not believing that any law enforcement association would even consider ending DROP, I expected this was a misunderstanding on the part of my friend; however, I was shocked to read the following words of Jim Mann the Vice President of the Arizona State FOP:
“For those of you who are looking at SB1344 PSPRS; deferred plans; return. This bill should cause quite a bit of discussion, so feel free to contact me if you need clarification. Since I helped write the amendment, I can probably answer your questions. Keep in mind, more changes are likely.
“…I am asking FOP members to support the amended bill. By supporting this bill, we show we are demonstrating our willingness to help improve the funded status of the retirement system, but not impacting our current DROP benefit.
“… You should know that Don Isaacson and I (along with the PSPRS Administrator and Fire Union representatives) met with Senator Huppenthal to discuss SB1344. Senator Huppenthal, and other legislators are determined to make changes to DROP. At the end of the meeting, Senator Huppenthal asked us to immediately draft an amendment to SB1344. The amendment accomplishes Senator Huppenthal’s intended result of modifying DROP to make it cost neutral (in the future) and protects DROP.”
The remainder of the e-mail reveals that the FOP had participated in an amendment to SB1344 that would eliminate the current DROP benefit for every officer employed after June 30, 2006!
My immediate response was to contact the fire representatives and convince them this was an enormous mistake. They immediately agreed with me and said they would work to reform this legislation. I then sent the following e-mail to Mr. Mann:
“We will not be supporting the Amendment to SB1344. We will use our influence to preserve forward drop by making changes and creating a second tier benefit like Fire has proposed for reverse drop. I have spoken with Fire, and based on our concerns, they will support the APA’s efforts to preserve forward drop. I hope the FOP will change its position and not move forward with its efforts to eliminate this benefit for our future officers.
“We have ideas on this issue that will preserve the health of the fund without short changing future system members.”
Mr. Mann’s response, “We don’t like being forced to have changes made to DROP. Our preference is to leave it alone. Our second preference is to participate in changes if they are going to be forced upon us.”
The APA will not have reductions in benefits “forced” on us. Nearly every legislator knows what a dangerous and challenging occupation law enforcement officers have and are glad to reward them with benefits earned by the blood, sweat and tears of those who come before and after us. APA and Fire were successful in convincing Senator Huppenthal that this was an inappropriate reaction to the reduced investment returns in the pension system. DROP will not change, no thanks to the FOP, and the APA’s position remains that any future changes will preserve DROP for all officers.
There is an important message in this. Returning benefits is a last resort and should never be contemplated until all other measures have been exhausted. This is true whether you are working at the legislature or negotiating a contract. The APA and the AHPA have the experience, expertise and toughness it takes to obtain and preserve the pay and benefits you so richly deserve.
By Dale F. Norris, Esq.
Article written by/or information provided by tcamos
Phoenix police officer and Chief Negotiator for the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association. He is an attorney and now the Executive Director of the Arizona Police Association. Dale brings, to the AHPA, 20 years as a police association leader, legal knowledge coupled with police experience and lessons learned at the bargaining table.