City Council Votes to Reform Controversial Retirement Program for L.A.’s Veteran Police and Firefighters

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Los Angeles City Hall is seen in an undated photo. (iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Los Angeles City Hall is seen in an undated photo. (iStock / Getty Images Plus)

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The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to reform a controversial retirement program that allowed hundreds of veteran police and firefighters to take extended leaves from work at essentially twice their usual pay.

The Deferred Retirement Option Plan pays city cops and firefighters their salaries and early pension payments for the last five years of their careers. Under the new measure, the pension checks will be withheld from anybody in DROP who misses significant time due to injury or illness in any given month. Those employees will still receive their full salary for the time off.

The change of policy comes in response to a Los Angeles Times investigative series that found nearly half of the cops and firefighters who had joined the program — which has paid out more than $1.7 billion in early extra pensions checks since its inception in 2002 — have subsequently taken injury leaves, typically for bad backs, sore knees and other conditions that afflict aging bodies regardless of profession.

The average absence was about 10 months, The Times found, but hundreds of police and firefighters took more than a year off while in the program.

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