Wave Of Cops Retiring
by Paul Bass | Jun 29, 2012 8:29 am
Posted to: Legal Writes
Dozens of veteran cops, including the supervisor of both the Dwight-Kensington neighborhood and the SWAT team, are leaving the police force as the year comes to a close.
As many as 30 veteran officers have turned in retirement papers as the June 30 deadline approaches, said incoming union President Lou Cavaliere Jr. (As of 2 p.m., the number stood at 31.)
Cavaliere noted that the exodus is leaving the department short-staffed on supervisors. Some five sergeants who supervise daytime patrols are among those leaving.
The department has been racing to fill empty spots and beef up the ranks, with 41 recruits currently undergoing training in three academies.
“The city’s in panic mode right now because they’re losing so many supervisors,” Cavaliere said. The decision to lay off 16 cops last year exacerbated the problem, he added.
“Of course it will be hard losing these remarkably talented and dedicated police officers,” Chief Dean Esserman said late Thursday. “But we are a strong department, and we will get through it.”
Esserman added that the department plans to train 10 more recruits in a new academy session beginning in October; and at least another 50 in 2013. He’s planning a new recruitment drive, as well as four promotional tests later this year and early in 2013. “I thank the mayor and the Board of Aldermen” for supporting those moves, he added.
Officers have a variety of reasons for leaving, from personal and family concerns to labor concerns.
Detective Joe Pettola (pictured) had wanted to retire for a while, but he wanted to solve a particular murder case first. He solved the case. (Read about that here.) Now he’s retiring.
Cavaliere said in other cases the exodus stems in part from fears about possible concessions in the next police contract. The current contract has expired; the city is seeking health and pension givebacks in negotiations.
“The city is in dire straits. They don’t feel a better contract is going to come out. Right now we’ve got a good contract. The medical’s great. The pension’s great. If the city forces a lousy contract, they don’t want to say ‘I could have left with a good contract,’” Cavaliere said.
In particular, cops were afraid of forfeiting the maximum benefit of “TA"s, or time accrued from overtime work in training programs, according to Cavaliere. Cops can cash those in upon retirement and have that money added to their last year’s salary—and then have their pension computed based in part on that total pay. The best time to take the TA money is in June, as the fiscal year ends, so it can be added to a full year’s salary.
Sgt. Pete Moller, a patrol supervisor and SWAT team member who is among those retiring, said he was in that predicament.
Moller said he felt time was coming to retire anyway. “I love the job. I love working for the people. After 25 years, it’s hard on the body,” he said.
He might have stayed on one more year, but he feared losing the benefit of the 480 TA hours he has accrued over the past two and a half decades, he said.
“If they had said the contract was good to next June, I may have stayed. I’m not going to take the risk,” Moller said.
“Equalize The Book”
Hassett said he, too, acted in part because of the uncertainty over the contract.
He also decided it was the right time after 25 years of service.
“At this point it’s about moments,” Hassett said. “I have a full library of moments with NHPD and the streets of New Haven. I’ve been blessed with a young family. I want to equalize the size of that book with my family and my kids.”
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Very sad to have all these officers leaving. It is worse knowing the recruits they speak of in training will not be ready to work on their own for over a year. Short sightedness by the current administration is the cause. Destefano worries about building schools and the board of education while shafting public safety in the city.
Tough to lose all that experience. Obviously it cannot just be replaced. But I am also saddened that many of the retirements are motivated by a need to juice their last year salary for pension purposes. I believe we should have fair salaries and pensions for public employees, especially those who risk physical harm on a daily basis, but the practice of stuffing overtime into a final salary calculation is the archetypal problem with public pensions in general. I sincerely hope that practice gets banned in all future contracts and that police officers simply get paid more up front so that we can attempt to both balance and create future estimates of our city and state budgets.
Your Tauntaun will freeze before you reach the first marker!
I wish Lt. Hassett all of the best. He has been a very important part of the improvements in public safety and relations between citizens and the NHPD. I hope we don’t lose his passion, wisdom, and talent as he retires. Maybe he’ll find a way to stay involved in improving life in New Haven neighborhoods. I, for one, hope so.
posted by: streever on June 29, 2012 1:54pm
This is frustrating—the type of issue caused by awarding out of control union contracts in the first place.
Can’t the city just come forward with a proposal that keeps the program the same for officers with 20+ years on the force?
We can’t really risk losing so many senior officers at a time of transition and change. Crime will go up.
This is why I have—and will continue—to lay blame for the murder rate at DeStefano’s doorstep.
1. DeStefano claims success for the reduction in crime from the 80s, so why isn’t he culpable when crime increases under him?
2. DeStefano has played very dirty politics—threatening cops with punishment for not agreeing to give-backs—and laying off 16 officers right after spending, what, 50-80k a piece to train them?
3. DeStefano has appointed Chiefs who had no intention of staying or creating stability—furthermore, Chiefs who could have stayed were treated poorly, housed in sub-standard conditions for married men with families.
All this, coupled with the out-sized energy he puts into subverting democracy makes me disappointed in our elected officials. We have a crisis in many of our neighborhoods, and DeStefano is breaking his back over widening a highway in the middle of the city.
What is not being said is that in the last year there have been seventy retirements from the department. Many of those have been supervisors, detectives, and the most experienced officers. I myself am a former sergeant and hostage negotiator, who left last August after twenty two years, and thousands of criminal arrests in New Haven. I always thought I would stay until I was sixty five, but I was really forced out at fifty by the threat of a future contract that would have been devastating for my family. The city always started negotiations with lofty claims of cutting everything, and then eventually would agree to a fair contract. This time it smelled different. The economy is so bad, and they actually did lay off sixteen cops, whom they had just trained at a huge cost. I had to wonder just how safe my pension and medical benefits, that I had paid into for twenty two years, were. If they were laying off large numbers of officers, who they had just trained, at a cost of over fifty thousand dollars each, then how can they afford not to cut my benefits? I have a family who depend on me for survival, and I am bound to do the best I can for them.
But there was more. As the city of New Haven built new school after new school, where good schools already stood, I watched the police department have no money to investigate crimes, process crime scenes,or properly staff shifts. I saw a once great department fail to stop, deter, or effectively investigate crimes,due to lack of funds, and I grew more and more frustrated.
New Haven has lost control of crime, and I wish them the best in getting it back. There are still many fine police officers there, both running the department, and in the rank and file. They struggle to do their level best every day, to cope with the problems that I have written about, while putting their lives on the line to protect the citizens there.
In short, rather than risk it, I left. Now everyone else who can, seems to be leaving too. I had my future threatened, and I protected it. I took my talents to another police department and I started over. I do miss many things about New Haven, but my family’s security is what matters most.