SAN DIEGO --
A mass exodus of police officers and firefighters could happen as a result of recent pension and retirement changes, 10News reported.
San Diego's employee retirement board is voted to lower the pension rate guarantee from 7.75 percent to 3.54 percent effective July 1.
"They don't need to put in their paperwork until June, but we know of about 20 right now who are going to leave and it could go to 30 to 35," said San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne.
Lansdowne said the list he is aware of includes sergeants, lieutenants and even an assistant chief.
But the Police Officers Association said it believes the actual number will be even higher.
"We did our own internal survey and we predict or project anywhere between 40 to 70 additional sworn officers will leave before July 1," said San Diego Police Officers Association president Brian Marvel.
That would leave department staffing levels at its lowest since the 1990s, according to Marvel.
It is not just police officers, as a number of experienced firefighters are also looking to leave.
"Yeah, we are going to be losing folks who have been around for a long time and that's a challenge for any organization that does that, but I think it'll be transparent to the public," said assistant fire chief Javier Mainer.
That is Lansdowne's position as well. Though he said reaching the goal of full staffing by 2010 won't happen, federal stimulus money could help boost the size of the academy.
"If there's a time to be hunting police departments this is the time to be there because there's lots of opportunity coming," said Lansdowne.
As for a mass city exodus, taxpayer advocate-turned-city councilmember Carl DeMaio had a different take.
"It's pretty outrageous that the labor unions always suggest we ought not to do something we know is right for taxpayers in the long term because of some short term 'boogeyman' they try putting out there," said DeMaio.
The Police Officers Association said when it was at an impasse with the city for two years, some 200 officers left and the number for this situation could be similar or even higher.
The exact number will not be known, but representatives from both the police and fire departments said the void can be filled.
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