Argument against Proposition E (police/firefighter survivor benefits)

The proponents of this ballot measure are no doubt counting on the public’s seemingly endless reservoir of goodwill toward police officers and firefighters.

But have you taken a good look at the police and fire departments lately? Perception, as the advertising slogan goes, isn’t always reality.

For instance, people think the jobs are very risky. But according to a U.S. Department of Labor / Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) study (Clarke and Zak, 1999), people working in logging, fishing, piloting of aircraft or water vehicles, construction labor, truck driving, roofing, and even farming are at higher risk of death on the job than firefighters or police officers.

And being a cop or firefighter pays quite well. Members of the SFPD earn between $56,559 and $78,874 according to a department recruiting brochure – not including lucrative overtime pay. And according to the Bay Guardian (June 30, 2004) “the average pay for the lowest class of firefighter is $81,382 a year, almost 15 percent more than the hourly pay in comparable cities, according to an April report from the Controller's Office.”

Two years ago, San Francisco voters increased retirement benefits for police and firefighters, allowing them to receive pensions each year of up to 90% of their top pay.

Since the benefits received by surviving spouses are based on the benefits a retiring employee would have received, approval of the 2002 measure means spouses of police officers and firefighters who die on the job are already slated to receive increased benefits.

Meanwhile, how much does the city pay to the surviving relatives of people wrongly shot to death by the police? Absolutely nothing -- unless they’re forced to do so by a lawsuit.

Vote NO on Proposition E.

Candidate for School Board