Police Departments Struggle To Recruit Enough Officers

As state legislators debate what changes will fix Kentucky’s debilitated pension system, state and local police are scrambling to recruit officers.

Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad said nearly 100 officers left LMPD this year. Sixty-three of those, he said, are officers who retired because of Kentucky’s looming pension reform, prompting him to try to recruit more officers.

“I’m having to manage with what I have … all told, we’ve had 98 people leave already and we’ve got seven more months of this fiscal year to deal with,” Conrad said at his Dec. 6 year-end address to a Metro Council committee. “What is so frustrating is we’ve lost a number of great police officers to fear over the retirement, and nothing has happened yet.”

The plan proposed by Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin includes a mandate for officers (and all state employees) to contribute 3 percent of their pay toward a retirement health program, as well as a suspension of pension benefits for retirees who return to public service full-time.

Worries About Retirement

Under the current system, officers can boost their pension benefits by retiring after working large amounts of overtime. Republican state Rep. Jerry Miller said pension reforms will limit that, as well as limiting how much sick and overtime hours hazardous-duty workers can count towards their retirement benefits.

“It’s actuarially unsound the way it’s been done in the past,” Miller said. “I don’t want to imply that anyone is doing anything wrong … they’re just taking advantage of the system in the way that it’s customarily been done.”

Police and other hazardous-duty employees can also currently use sick leave and comp time they’ve saved up to boost their pension benefits or help them retire early.

Under Bevin’s proposal, sick leave would be capped as of July 1, 2018. Workers would also no longer be able to use accrued sick time to determine retirement eligibility for retirements after July 1, 2018. Workers hired after 2008 already aren’t allowed to use comp time to boost their time for retirement compensation.

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