As she counts down the days until her lucrative retirement on the city’s notorious Deferred Retirement Option Plan, widely known as DROP, San Diego chief of police Shelley Zimmerman has increasingly taken to the road, courtesy of taxpayers. That word comes via travel-expense documents posted on the city’s public records web page.
Already this year Zimmerman has logged at least five major out-of-town trips. On February 2, she went to Washington DC for two days at the Major Cities Chiefs Meeting, running up a $1653 tab. In March she headed for Palm Springs to attend the San Diego County Chiefs and Sheriffs Association annual training, at a cost of $924. There the chief shared “information on current concerns and issues that could impact the city of San Diego,” per her travel report. In May it was off to Sacramento for the California Peace Officers Memorial ceremony, costing taxpayers $762. Four days after she got back from that event, Zimmerman jetted off for Washington again, this time for the National Law Enforcement Memorial, running up total expenses of $2018. At the end of the month, the chief traveled to Las Vegas for the Police Executive Research Forum’s annual meeting, to “share information on different issues that could impact the city of San Diego,” costing $691.
As first revealed here in February 2014, shortly after Zimmerman was named police chief by newly elected mayor Kevin Faulconer the city acknowledged that she would have to depart after four years. Zimmerman “entered DROP on March 2, 2013, and will exit DROP on March 1, 2018. DROP is irrevocable, and as such, a DROP participant must exit DROP at the end of the designated period.”
That started the clock ticking on Zimmerman’s lame-duck tenure, during which she has received both her chief’s salary and benefits along with six-figure annual pension payouts from her prior 31 years of service. Under the terms of the controversial program, the chief’s pension — about 85 percent of her 2013 salary — has been about $131,000 a year, per a Union-Tribune report, tucked away for her in a savings account until the day she leaves the city. The nest egg will be worth a tidy $654,729 by the time Zimmerman departs the city, according to the paper’s calculations.
Additionally, Zimmerman’s annual compensation and benefits as chief during 2016 totaled $234,841, according to Transparent California, which notes “The City of San Diego does not provide the cost of pension benefits on an employee level and, as such, the ‘total benefits’ value reported is incomplete and significantly understated.”