City police dept. offers to rehire disabled officers

At least 72 would return under 1-year contracts

February 04, 2005|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

The city Police Department is offering to rehire some of the disabled officers it is forcing to retire, but union officials say they aren't satisfied with the proposed employment terms.

"I think they're just throwing us some crumbs to keep up us quiet," said Lt. Frederick V. Roussey, the president of the local Fraternal Order of Police.

Under a plan announced this week, 72 officers would be rehired on one-year contracts and would be paid about $27,500 a year - $13.22 per hour - with no medical benefits and two weeks of unpaid leave. They will not receive paid holidays, sick days or personal leave, police officials said. They would work non-law enforcement jobs, similar to the ones they currently hold performing light-duty assignments.

Police spokesman Matt Jablow said the number hired could climb to nearly 170. "It's what we said we were going to do from the beginning," he said.

The offer of the one-year contracts represents the most recent development in a back-and-forth dispute between the department and the police union. Nearly 160 disabled city police officers have been informed this year that they must apply for retirement or they will be fired.

Those officers - who are injured or ill and likely never to return to full-duty police work - account for 5 percent of the city force. Light-duty assignments have included teaching at the police academy, sorting evidence and performing clerical tasks that don't require police powers.

The retirements, police officials have said, will eliminate all permanent light-duty positions and save money so the department can hire more patrol officers. Of the 156 officers under order to apply for retirement, 101 were injured in the line of duty, according to the Police Department.

Those injured in the line of duty are eligible to apply for a tax-free pension that would pay them two-thirds of the average salary they received during their highest-paid 18 months at the department.

The others are eligible for a taxable pension: 2.5 percent of their highest salary for every year worked, up to 20 years, and 2 percent per year for service over 20 years (assuming a minimum of five years with the department). Using that formula, an officer with 15 years' service, would receive 37.5 percent, and pay taxes on the money.

How many officers an arbitrator will award the larger, tax-free pension has become a dispute between the department and the union.

Jablow said the new contract positions could be a good fit for some retired officers. "We think these jobs will provide a generous complement to their pensions," he said.

Roussey said he fears that the jobs won't materialize, and if they do, they will be the first positions cut during tight fiscal times.

"If it's true, it could benefit some people," Roussey said, "I'm kind of cynical right now."

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