City Council introduced an ordinance at a special meeting on Monday night, Feb. 4, which provides the legal basis for a police retirement incentive program being implemented by the city.
That ordinance was unanimously approved by council at its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday night, Feb. 19, after this week's edition of the NEWS went to press. For the full story, see next week's edition of the NEWS.
Mayor Justin Taylor said the ordinance is an important part of his plan for restructuring the police department.
"We simply cannot afford to continue to operate the police department in the way that it currently exists," he related, "so we have to right-size the department by reducing the number of full-time officers."
Taylor stated that the plan reduces the current force of 12 full-timers down to nine. In order to achieve that goal, he said the city offered the retirement incentive package as part of a new police contract which is still being negotiated.
"In general terms, any retirement-eligible officer receives 50 percent of his salary as a pension under the current contract, but the city is offering them an additional 15 percent on top of that as part of this incentive package," he explained.
He said the reason is a simple one.
"Officers can retire after 20 years on the force, but there are no provisions in the contract that say they have to retire then," Taylor related. "We were hoping this incentive plan would convince some of the eligible officers to leave now rather than putting off their retirement."
He noted that the ordinance outlines all of the specifics of the plan and also provides a legal basis for its implementation.
"In order for the city to provide this retirement incentive package, it obviously has to be part of the law," he pointed out. "So this ordinance basically spells out the whole program, such as the concessions being made by the city as well as the obligations of the officers taking advantage of it."
Taylor stated that the details of the retirement incentive program would also be made part of any new contract which the city signs with the police union.
"We will include similar language in the contract once we get to that point," he offered.