The Gulfport Police Department (GPD) plans to make a presentation to City of Gulfport proposing that, regardless of age, city officers who served within the department for 25 years or longer should be eligible for retirement – a change that would allow GPD officers to retire at 46 at the youngest.
Currently, GPD hires at 21 and requires that officers serve 25 years and be at least 52 years of age before retiring.
“Police officers die at an abnormally early age,” said GPD officer Jason Motte, who is one of the officers vying for the change. “Every other agency in the area has a similar requirement as this. We’re hurting for good police officers at the moment, and this would work as an incentive.”
The Tampa and Clearwater police departments allow for retirement after 20 years of service with no age minimum, and Clearwater hires officers at 18 years old.
“Thirty years on the streets, arresting people that don’t want to be arrested, getting in fights…there’s a reason we die young,” Motte said.
Currently, Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent is the sole officer who has been with the GPD for longer than the proposed 25 years, according to a records request.
The Gabber asked Vincent if he would consider retiring if the ordinance was approved.
“No, I would not,” Vincent said. “I’d have to take a pay cut, and buy health insurance. I like Gulfport; I think I’ll be around for a while.”
The GPD discussed presenting the proposal to Gulfport Council at a pension board meeting last Thursday, October 22.
Originally, the board was to ask council at the upcoming November 16 meeting, but that was pushed back by a man who supports it, Gulfport City Manager Jim O’Reilly.
According to O’Reilly, the union’s respective bargaining contract negotiations should be addressed first at council. The negotiations – a contract between the city and GPD discussed and renewed every three years – is on the upcoming agenda.
“Officers don’t just get in front of council; they have a pension board that was elected that will present it to our city council,” O’Reilly said. “I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves.”
It’s unclear when the pension board will get the chance to state their case for earlier retirement, but it won’t be in November.
“The city manager thought it best to pump the brakes on the presentation until negotiations over the contract are over,” Motte said. “Putting the pension issue in that contract is not typically done, apparently.”
The process of asking council to propose the ordinance isn’t entirely standard, but deemed the fastest way by the police pension board and O’Reilly.
“We’re not asking them to reach for the stars, but we’re asking for industry standards,” Motte said at the Thursday meeting.
The city would foot the bill for the pension changes but the details are still up in the air – as is the date for the first step of the process.
“Mr. O’Reilly needs to be a part of this process – that’s the preferred way,” Motte said. “His insight would be very helpful.”