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LAPD officer arrested, accused of fraud in controversial city pension program

Jack Dolan, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles police officials arrested one of their own Thursday on suspicion of workers' compensation fraud while enrolled in a controversial program that pays veteran cops and firefighters their salary and pension simultaneously for up to five years.

Police Officer Terry Johns joined the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP, in July 2014. The following month he filed a workers' compensation claim for a bad back, public records show.

He then took a long injury leave, collecting nearly $250,000 in pension and salary for the time off, according to city payroll data.

A Los Angeles Times investigation published last month found more than 1,200 public safety officers had joined DROP and then gone out with injuries -- typically bad backs, sore knees and other ailments of aging bodies -- turning the program into an extended leave at nearly twice the pay.

The program has paid out more than $1.6 billion in extra pension checks since its inception in 2002, the Times found.

Nearly half of participants who entered the program between July 2008 and July 2017 had subsequently taken injury leaves. Their average absence was 10 months, but hundreds stayed out for more than a year.

Mayor Eric Garcetti and key members of the City Council called for a thorough investigation of the program last month after the Times stories.

But Garcetti and the council ignored a report from the City Administrative Officer in 2016 warning the program was not, and never had been, "cost neutral" as promised to voters and was no longer necessary to achieve its stated goal of retaining veteran officers.

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