A retired Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer was arrested March 8 on suspicion of workers’ compensation fraud while enrolled in a controversial program that allows veteran police officers and firefighters to collect their salary and pension simultaneously for up to five years.
Former officer Terry Johns joined the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) in July 2014. The next month, he filed a workers’ compensation claim for a bad back.
Johns then took a long injury leave, collecting nearly $250,000 in pension and salary for the time off before retiring in 2016. Johns is being held on $160,000 bail while awaiting trial.
The controversial DROP program was passed by voters in 2001 with a promise that it would keep veteran officers on the job a few years longer, at no additional cost to the city.
A Los Angeles Times investigation found rampant abuse in which more than 1,200 public safety officers joined DROP and then went out with injuries (usually bad backs), effectively turning the program into an extended leave at nearly twice the pay.
The Times found that the program has paid out more than $1.6 billion in extra pension checks since its inception in 2002, with the average work absence being 10 months long.
In one instance, a married LAPD couple went on DROP with carpal tunnel syndrome and missed more than 2 years of work, collecting nearly $2 million from the program while spending their time starting a small business and vacationing at their condo in Cabo.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council have asked for a thorough review of the program. (Source: Los Angeles Times, March 8.)