New York 1 News

January 14, 2002

Police Commissioner Seeks To Change Pension Rules

A record number of police officers are retiring, prompting the city's top cop to try new ways to stop the department's steady loss of jobs. But the PBA calls it "window-dressing."

In the following story, NY1 Police Reporter Andrew Siff has the details on a plan to pay cops some retirement benefits before they move on.

"Currently there's a serious crisis in the Police Department regarding staffing."

That's according to Tom Scotto, head of the Detectives Endowment Association. He says as many as 2,000 of the NYPD's 7,000 detectives could retire this year, the most ever in one year.

"If we lose all that talent we will have a serious problem," Scotto said Monday. "We need a program to retain seasoned investigators."

Not to mention to retrain rank-and-file officers, as more than 3,700 of them may retire this year.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has a program in mind. He's backing two bills in Albany, one of which would pay police officers some retirement benefits while they stay on the job, and the other which would let them pick the year of their highest income to lock in a higher pension when they eventually retire.

According to Commissioner Kelly, "We want to do everything we reasonably can do to stem the flow of the great expertise we have in the department."

The proposals have an uncertain future in Albany. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Governor George Pataki have not signed off on them.

But the head of the largest police union says the retirement benefits plan ignores the bigger problem. Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch says the same cops who chanted for a raise last year in the city's biggest police rally still have no contract.

"Police officers want to stay on this job, but you have to give them a reason," Lynch said Monday. "A reason is a salary equal to surrounding jurisdictions."

"That's Pat Lynch's concern, and it should be," Kelly countered. "The vast majority of his members are not eligible to retire, and I'm looking at the department as a whole. But as far as a raise in pay? Absolutely. I support that strongly."

Some experts say the budget crunch, coupled with retirements, will result in a smaller NYPD. But that's not necessarily bad if the force stays close to 40,000, says Tom Reppetto of the Citizens Crime Commission.

"There may be ways to re-deploy the police force that can save some strength, and there's new strategies and tactics being evolved, but I would expect the strength will remain pretty close to what it is now," said Reppetto.

Kelly says there may be some good news on the recruiting front, because since September 11, the better image of the NYPD has attracted more applications. Plus, with an economic downturn, more people need jobs, and jobs are available at the NYPD.

— Andrew Siff