The top official for the state’s largest police union expects to see a “significant number” of retirements amid police reform and the unrest following George Floyd’s death in May.
“The strain from the public has been really palpable,” Pat Colligan, the president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, told NJ Advance Media. We’re going to see “really significant numbers” of retirements, he said.
Colligan’s comments come as his colleagues across the Hudson River in the New York Police Department had to limit retirements following a 411% surge in early July. Between May 25 — the day Floyd was killed in Minneapolis — and July 3, the NYPD had 503 cops file for retirement, the New York Post reported. Police in New York and other major U.S. cities have clashed with protestors in ongoing demonstrations following Floyd’s death. For the most part, New Jersey’s protests have been peaceful.
Colligan said he doesn’t expect to see that same surge in the Garden State because New Jersey police officers “haven’t been treated like those officers.”
However, the union boss does expect to see the same “brain drain” that unfolded in 2011 after former Gov. Chris Christie’s Chapter 78 law went into effect, which forced public employees to pay a portion of their health benefits. Colligan said he doesn’t recall the exact number of retirees from that time, but estimated it was “hundreds and hundreds.”
“We’re going to see numbers like that or greater,” he said.
Many of the retirements are not necessarily from the rank and file, but rather the top brass, he said.
The exact number of police officers who have filed for retirement is not available due to a backlog in the retirement system, said Gregory Petzold, the executive director of the New Jersey Police and Firemen’s Retirement System.
“This is not limited to the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, but rather the problem is systemic across all of the state-administered retirement systems,” he said in an email.
The backlog, he explained, is due to the coronavirus pandemic and the recent wave of furloughs for public employees.
Ed Donnelly, the chairman of the board of trustees for the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, said in a letter to certifying officers that he has requested the governor designate the retirement system staff as essential “due to the amount of work we have with the very small number of staff we employ.”
Police officers and firefighters are waiting hours on the phone just to get questions answered, Donnelly told NJ Advance Media.
“I don’t have people manning the phones down there,” Donnelly said.