Miami-Dade County

Miami police chief to work past “retirement,” collect salary and pension

Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes
Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes

Miami’s police chief will retire in four months, but he’s not actually leaving his post.

Instead, Rodolfo “Rudy” Llanes will continue to run the city’s roughly 1,250-officer department through the fall of 2017, Miami’s city manager announced Wednesday. In a memo to city commissioners, Daniel Alfonso said he will retain Llanes past a predetermined retirement date in October in order to keep stability in the department.

“In recent years there has been turnover in command staff in the department; and more turnover is projected,” Alfonso wrote. “This decision will ensure stability at the leadership level of the City’s police department.”

A 29-year-veteran of the department, Llanes was announced as the city’s new police chief in December of 2014. Since then, he has helped usher in new crime-fighting technology, smoothed relations with the police union, and played a role in negotiating an out-of-court settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. Last year, statistics reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show violent crime continued to drop.

But Llanes took the job with a clock already ticking down on his retirement due to his 2009 enrollment in a pension fund Deferred Retirement Option Plan. The plan, called DROP, freezes an employee’s pension value and deposits monthly payments into a tax-deferred account that is paid to the employee upon a predetermined retirement date. Llanes’ retirement date is Oct. 10, and the pension fund values his DROP account at $900,000 before taxes and earned interest.

If he stays on the job past Oct. 10, Llanes will collect an as-yet undetermined salary and $130,000 pension, a practice that the city avoided until recently. In 2013, Mayor Tomás Regalado vetoed legislation that would have allowed some of the city’s highest-paid employees to work beyond retirement. And in January, police union president Lt. Javier Ortiz ripped Alfonso for retaining fire chief Maurice Kemp beyond his retirement date, referring to it as “pension abuse.”

But while it may be somewhat controversial, so-called double-dipping doesn’t actually cost the city extra money. And a city law expressly allows the police and fire chiefs to stay on the job past retirement.

“Whether I stay or leave I’m entitled to my pension. It’s not like they’re going to abolish the chief of police position, so that salary will be paid to someone,” Llanes said. “There’s no additional cost to the city.”

Llanes said he believes sticking around an extra year will be good for the department.

“There’s been a huge turnover in executive staff,” he said. “A little bit of stability from the top will help shepherd the department going into the future.”