Police Union: Let 65-Year-Old Officer Work

BRISTOL, CT &#8211 After a popular police officer was forced into retirement earlier this month, the union’s regional office is calling on city leaders to reconsider.

Jerry Pare was told he was out of a job Oct. 8, the day after he turned 65. City police officers and some city council members say that seems like the wrong move, since Pare has stayed physically and mentally fit and was still working front-line patrol downtown until his last day at work.

The union says the city’s actions are simply wrong.

“We’ll do everything in our power to see that Jerry is treated fairly,” said Officer Lang Mussen, who heads the Bristol police union.

On Thursday, the regional union office notified Ward that it wants the city to reconsider. A letter from Council 15 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said he shouldn’t be forced out.

Ward could not be reached for comment Friday. During a council meeting Oct. 11, Ward and a city attorney said the union would have to formally request action before the city could even consider the matter.

At that council meeting, dozens of police, hospital workers and other supporters showed up to support Pare’s plea to resume working.

Privately, many police say they’re puzzled at why the city would force out a competent and well-liked patrol officer with a reputation for hard work, particularly when the patrol division is desperately short-handed because of budget reductions. A few have questioned why city leaders would play hardball with Pare when for several years they’d allowed disgraced or troubled commanders to stay on the job.

Pare is less than a half-year short of the 25 years of service he needs for his pension, but the city has already agreed to let him collect it anyway. Pare, who struggled for three years to return to police work after a devastating injury in 2000, has earned commendations and is generally popular with downtown business owners. He has said he simply wants to keep being a Bristol officer for as long as he can handle the job.

The city passed a mandatory retirement ordinance a couple of years ago, but the union has emphasized that state law specifically allows communities to grant up to three consecutive one-year waivers. Ward on Oct. 11 directed a city lawyer to look into the matter, but several council members said it was too late to do anything. The union has complained that the council and Ward knew about Pare’s impending forced retirement for two weeks but took no action.

“I don’t think the council and the mayor’s office have handled this as they should have,” Mussen said Friday.

From The Hartford Courant.