FORT WAYNE, IN Fort Wayne Police Department officers will now be required to retire from the force by the end of the calendar year after they reach 70 years of age.
The City Council on Tuesday amended and passed an ordinance updating the police department’s compulsory retirement age. A 1982 city ordinance – passed in response to the adoption of a state merit system for police officers – originally set the retirement age at 60 years old but had not been enforced since 1986, Public Safety Director Rusty York said.
York said the amendment presented Tuesday makes the retirement ordinance retroactive to Jan. 1, 2002, in order to protect two police officers who retired after the age of 60 and took the Deferred Retirement Option Plan.
Officers who opt into the DROP program declare their intent to retire three years before the retirement date, York said. Officers who do this have to retire at their current pay level but bank their pensions for three years and receive a lump sum when they retire.
While it’s not illegal for an officer to retire after the age laid out in the city ordinance, York said if the Indiana Public Retirement System found that the two officers retired at an incorrect age, they could be required to pay back the money they received through DROP.
“If we make this ordinance retroactive, … that would address any potential issue with those two officers that retired under DROP,” York said.
The updated ordinance is supported by the city’s Fraternal Order of Police and Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, York said, adding that just because officers are allowed to continue to work until they reach age 70, the ordinance is in no way a pass for officers who don’t meet the department’s physical and mental requirements.
“We do have a rule – fitness for duty – where if an officer chooses not to retire but can’t fulfill the requirements and the job descriptions of a police officer, they will be taken to the Board of Safety and dismissed,” he said.
Police Chief Garry Hamilton, who also supports increasing the age, noted officers’ fitness for duty is assessed several times a year.
“Three times a year they come in for in-service, and for officers not able to perform, they’ll have them come back, and if they’re (still) not able to qualify, they will do the fitness review,” he said. “And that’s regardless of their age.”
Hamilton also said by adopting a mandatory retirement age of 70, the police department will actually be better able to focus its recruitment efforts. The number of officers reaching age 70 in a given year will help indicate the number of new recruits needed, he said.
There are 19 officers on the Fort Wayne Police Department over the age of 60 and five who will turn 60 this year, York said.
From The Journal Gazette