Torrington police chief urges city to provide officers with pension plan

TORRINGTON — Restoring a pension plan for police would help hire new officers and retain existing ones, the chief says.

Although not a real retirement plan, the city council has agreed to adopt an incentive program that police chief William Baldwin says will help the department retain seasoned officers and ensure the stability of the department.

“I’m losing younger guys because we don’t have a pension plan,” Police Chief William Baldwin told city council. “We have to talk about it; we have to bring that back. This is something we have to sort out for our young officers.

Baldwin’s comments came during a recent meeting with Mayor Elinor Carbone and City Council, who were asked this week to consider adopting a deferred retirement option plan. The city’s personnel department is negotiating with the local 442 police union, according to the motion presented by Carbone.

The DROP program is a way “to address employee retention issues in the police department,” according to the motion. “Along with municipalities statewide and nationwide, the City of Torrington is having difficulty recruiting and retaining police officers.”

The motion cited “The State of Recruitment: A Crisis for Law Enforcement,” published by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and a news article, “Police departments struggle to recruit in ‘difficult profession.’

According to Baldwin, a DROP allows employees eligible for retirement to continue working for a set period of time. The employer reserves an additional monthly payment as long as the employee continues to work. When leaving municipal service at the end of the DROP period, the employee receives the one-time lump sum that had been set aside.

The benefits, Baldwin said, would be for the city to retain seasoned employees for an additional 3 to 5 years, keeping certified officers at a time when recruiting and retaining staff is difficult; the city would have more time to plan for the succession of the retirement of experienced employees; and that would ensure the stability of the ministry. Other cities using DROP include Norwalk, East Hartford and Enfield, he said.

The board voted to complete the DROP deal, but not before Baldwin shared his continuing struggles running the department with an exhausted staff. There are currently about 10 openings in the department; incentives like this would help fill those gaps, he said.

“Other cities have brought their pensions back, recognizing that it’s important to offer it,” Baldwin said.

Council member Ann Ruwet called the hiring difficulties a “cultural issue”.

“You fixed that problem,” she said. “People don’t recognize the value of blue. It is more important than having a pension or not. I would like to see data on this.

“Departments are struggling to retain officers at all levels,” Baldwin said.

Council Member Paul Cavagnero said: “This is part of a whole series of developments; the public is not involved in understanding the importance of the police in running the city and how we let ourselves go. There’s been so much negative press about the positive things they do.

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