Berlin police commission looks to amend benefits, retain officers

Published on Tuesday, 19 June 2018 19:12
Written by Charles Paullin

@CPaullinNBH

BERLIN - The police commission is looking to restructure retirement plans as a way to retain more officers.

“We think the town as a whole is losing money,” said Police Commission Chairman Bob Peters at a special meeting on June 7.

His comments came with data from Police Chief John Klett, during the meeting, who said that the department lost six people to departures in the last five years and one more is expected to leave in July. All said that at least one reason for their departure was to seek a better retirement plan.

Those officers had an average of three years experience with the department and were 30 or younger he added.

“What we’re going to end up with (is) a day shift of 60, 70-year-old men,” Peters said.

Town Human Resources Director Denise Parsons said that changes in retirement benefits provide more cost savings to the town, and make them more in line with general government employees.

Peters said he has never heard of a vesting period for police officers, and police officers aren’t like other town employees because they work “crazy hours,” at night, over weekends and on holidays.

“That’s not fair to the (officers), plain and simple,” Peters said.

Police Commissioner Steve Wilson suggested the idea of having a vesting period for 10 or 15 years, and then “doubling” or “tripling” down on the town match, to retain officers.

Sgt. John Flynn, Berlin police union president, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 56, said he would be in favor of that idea, as a start, but he was more in favor of a Connecticut Municipal Employees Retirement System (CMERS), which is run by the state. Southington, Middletown and Rocky Hill are participants in that plan, Klett said.
 
At a cost to the municipality, that plan provides participants with 50 percent of the average of their best salaries for three years, and cost of living raise of 2 to 6 percent based on the market at the time, Flynn said. Flynn said he was unsure of the cost, but it was more expensive than a 401(k) plan with a 12 percent match.
 
Young officers who are just starting their lives may have difficulty contributing their own funds to a 401(k) plan, with less of a town match, Flynn added.

Peters said he understands the town is facing financial trouble, but added he doesn’t want town officials to come to him asking why they were short on officers.

Town Manager Jack Healy, who negotiates union contracts, questioned if officers would come to the department following Wilson’s proposal.

“They always want to come,” Klett said. “They always want to get their foot in the door…we’ll hire people.”

Mayor Mark Kaczynski, who arrived at the meeting about halfway through, questioned if officers were leaving to also be part of a larger department. He said he understood the need to stop the “outflow” of officers.

Under state statute, if an officer moves to another department within two years of receiving certification, that department that trains the officer can ask for up to 50 percent reimbursement of the training costs from the new department. Peters said the department has never had to do that.

The police commission meets Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the conference room of the police department.

Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or cpaullin@centralctcommunications.com.



Posted in New Britain Herald, Berlin, General News on Tuesday, 19 June 2018 19:12. Updated: Wednesday, 20 June 2018 13:08.