FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – City police officers are one signature away from getting to stay on the force longer. City council approved a mandatory retirement ordinance, raising the age from 60 to 70, Tuesday night.
Council voted in favor of the change with a 7-0 vote. Councilman Tom Smith was absent and Councilman Marty Bender abstained from voting, just like he did last week.
According to Fort Wayne City Code, an officer is required to retire at the age of 60. Public Safety Director Rusty York said at last week’s meeting that the retirement age had not been enforced since 1986. He added this week that the police force currently has 19 officers who are already at least 60-years-old and five more officers will turn 60 later this year.
“Since we’re weren’t doing what our ordinance said, we really needed to enforce it or change it,” said Council President John Crawford.
The ordinance was passed with an additional amendment that’s likely to end an on-going state audit into the police department.
The audit began over the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP), which allows officers to pick a retirement date three years out. From that point on, three years’ worth of pension money goes into a separate fund. On the day they retire, officers can collect that fund up-front in a lump sum.
However, officers aren’t suppose to receive the DROP if they are over the police agencies set retirement age. The Indiana Public Retirement System (INPRS) discovered two officers received a DROP after the age of 60 and began to investigate.
Earlier this month, a spokesperson with INPRS told 15 Finds Out that retired officers found to be in violation would have to pay the state back, unless council raised the retirement age and applied it retroactively. The spokesperson added that if the law was put into affect retroactively, the state would no longer have an issue over the benefits.
The amendment puts the ordinance into affect retroactively to January 1, 2002.
“It was 2003 that the DROP program was instituted,” York said to the council. “That’s the issue at hand and we’ve had no officers take the DROP program after 70 years old so this way everyone’s covered.”
The ordinance moves to Mayor Tom Henry’s desk for final approval.