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Continued: Suburban police face retirements due to pension change

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Last update: September 2, 2014 - 7:08 PM

North metro

Likewise, cities like Coon Rapids didn’t have any retirements due to the new pension changes. In Blaine, the 59-officer department had five retirements, three of them before the May deadline.

And in Brooklyn Park, the department had eight retirements — more than any recent year.

Even for a 100+ staff, the large influx in retirees means reorganizing so that priority positions such as street patrol are filled, Inspector Mark Bruley said.

“It’s certainly significant — no question about it,” he said. “Like any business model, we’re trying to minimize the impact.”

The department, like others, is in the midst of hiring new officers but that, too, may take the rest of the year for the new staff to be hired and trained.

Even though it means losing veteran officers, Bruley said police departments are weathering the pension change.

“It’s accepted as outside our control,” he said. “We’ve just had to adjust to it.”

South metro

Police departments south of the river in Dakota County haven’t been affected to the same extent as some others.

Dakota County Sheriff Dave Bellows said his department offered an early-out retirement program a couple of years ago and lost “upwards of seven” people through that.

What the sheriff said he has seen, thanks to retirements at other agencies, is “a very competitive market [when] trying to fill new positions.”

Bellows said he’s in the process of hiring four to five people right now and, while there is a large number of police candidates, competition for the top-tier, experienced candidates is fierce.

Eagan Police Chief Jim McDonald said two people in his department retired in May to avoid the PERA changes. But they would have retired regardless. The only difference was they chose to go in May rather than wait until July.

Many of the Eagan officers were hired in the 1980s when the suburb’s growth was at its highest. Those officers will be coming up to retirement soon, McDonald said, and will result in “a steady steam of people headed out the door.”

But the chief doesn’t anticipate having any difficulty managing those retirements.

Jeff Long, police chief in Lakeville, said he knows of one captain that retired before the rules change took effect. But, he said, Lakeville is unlike Edina, where he formerly was chief, which lost five or six. Like Eagan, Long said he expects a large number of retirements in about 10 years.

The West St. Paul Police Department hasn’t lost anyone to the changes. Spokesman Lt. Brian Sturgeon said it’s largely a younger department. He estimated the average age to be about 35.

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    18% Minnesota police chiefs who say pension changes are having major immediate impact on departments

    19% Minnesota police chiefs who say pension changes having big, but not immediate impact on departments

    36% Minnesota police chiefs who say pension changes have some impact on departments

    Source: Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association

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