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Retirements, Lure Of Better Pay Elsewhere Craters Cop Staffing Levels

July 25th, 2014 · 41 Comments · Analysis and Comment, Law Enforcement, News and Events

police department

Thinner cop house.

The Police Department has lost 30 sworn officers so far this year to retirement and better paying job opportunities in Connecticut communities, dwindling law enforcement strength to under 400 for the first time in two decades with the specter of losing dozens more to retirement come January 2015.

Police spokesman Bill Kaempffer confirmed Thursday that the number of sworn city officers is down to 380, with a recruitment class of 17 coming on line later this year. Police overtime that had been reeled in by Assistant Chief James Nardozzi has now kicked in to address the attrition, according to police sources.

“We’re not going to keep the city understaffed because of the retirements,” says Kaempffer. “Public safety is the foremost priority.”

What’s going on? The city is challenged to compete with the pay scale and benefits offered by surrounding communities. Veteran members of the department have left–many cashing in retirement pay–for higher paying communities and private sector security positions. Some within the department also say morale issues have forged departures. In recent years collective bargaining agreements have required city police officers to contribute growing shares to medical benefits. Some area communities are offering lateral movement hires, meaning city officers can segue right into the respective systems because they are certified in law enforcement. The towns save money on training of recruits.

The challenge for the city is keeping pace with additional losses that could occur come 2015.

“Officers are leaving for other departments for more than $10,000 in salary without the stress of a city job,” says one veteran member of the department.

In the coming weeks the city is expected to lose four more veteran officers earning retirement pay averaging close to $100,000 grandfathered into the city’s Pension A retirement benefits of 20 years and out dating back 40 years. The city recently opted into a state pension program that allows two percent retirement benefits per years of service calculating the best three earning years including overtime pay. So you serve 40 years, you receive 80 percent of the best three years. The earning power of veteran department members in recent years including overtime has eclipse $100,000.

Several years ago police overtime costs had busted the law enforcement budget. Assistant Chief Nardozzi was brought in with a specific task to tame overtime spending. He earned the enmity of officers who had no problem working a couple of shifts per day. But now the dwindling staffing level is forcing the department to keep pace with necessary patrol coverage through overtime.

The city has entered the dog days of summer when violent crime is generally on the rise. The good news is the city has not experienced the kind of violent crime in recent years that had marred from the mid 1980s into the early 1990s when a murder a week, as a result of the crack cocaine epidemic and drug gang wars, was the norm in comparison to a murder or two per month in the past decade.

Back in the mid 1980s the city had experienced a shortfall in police staffing levels that extended into the early 1990s. Joe Ganim, who was elected mayor in 1991, began the process to hire additional police that eventually led to staffing levels reaching authorized strength of close to 450.

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41 Comments so far ↓

  • jennifer lynne

    Lennie, you would be remiss to not address the toxic environment that has been created at the Police Department. To think the very loyal men and women of the BPT PD could be so easily swayed by $10,000 is ludicrous. I have the absolute pleasure of working side by side with these people and day in and day out I hear the stories of how unappreciated they have been made to feel by the current leadership, administration and constituency. When you ask someone to put their life on the line for you, at the very least you should be thankful. Not in Bridgeport. The treatment of our police is often vindictive and vengeful. In my practice I’m used to seeing bodily injuries and as of late they are coupled with injuries of the soul. Anxiety, anger and true disappointment in what runs free these days and believe me it’s not all about the money. Optimism, kindness, appreciation … they are all free.

    • LennieGrimaldi

      Good point, Dr. Lynne. It’s a lot easier to accept more pay elsewhere if morale is low. I have great admiration for city officers. Whatever the reason I cannot blame them for moving on for more pay in light of the environment. I think it’s a combination of both.

  • Tom White

    Perhaps our State legislators should introduce a bill that requires a town that hires a veteran police officer from another town to pay a fee to cover all the training and gained experience. Something along the lines of how the Bluefish sell a contract of a player to a major league organization. It would be D.O.A. of course.

  • Ron Mackey

    There are those on OIB who have said right here the Bridgeport police officers are making too much money and their benefits need to be reduced, in there are a few who are running for elected office. That’s what you call a lack of respect for those who risk their lives, it’s easy to say cut their pay.

    • Jimfox

      You’re right, Ron, That same OIB person is now complaining about City tradesmen making too much money for what they do.
      Now that he’s retired and a taxpayer while collecting his fat city pension, he thinks the City is overpaying everyone!
      He thinks privatizing all departments will save the taxpayers money.
      Police and Fire departments be damned!

      • John Marshall Lee

        Jim Fox,
        Andy Fardy has looked at pay levels of certain tradespersons working for the City of Bridgeport and knowing they also get great medical benefits and defined benefit retirement plans, with little contributions for the same relative to comparable work in private industry, he is asking a question. Opinions are OK? No? Questions are OK? No?
        What about answers about the Black Rock 300? What event or source of info are you waiting on to deliver this important story? And what comparables are you using to show unfairness is happening?

        By the way, isn’t that just what Andy is doing, independent of the pension benefits he, or Ron, or Donald earned? As a taxpayer he is questioning what people are paid relative to the benefit or value received by the City.
        He has never advocated privatizing all departments, has he? What he is looking for is accountability. Are you really against that? Are you counting on Mayor Finch to be an accountable executive? Time will tell.

        • Ron Mackey

          John Marshall Lee, I was not talking about Andy Fardy, instead I was talking about David Walker, the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor.

          • John Marshall Lee

            Ron,
            I was talking about Jim Fox and Andy Fardy’s discussion.
            I don’t remember the David Walker reference to Bridgeport public safety officers “making too much money” and “their benefits need to be reduced as you have stated it. Perhaps you can provide the quote for that from Walker.
            What I remember from discussions with him is public promises by politicians (without details provided to the taxpaying public) have given us underfunded obligations that are real liabilities. I believe he would direct our attention to those facts and have the public come to real terms with alternatives. Don’t you want to be part of that research, review and discussion? Reasoning and opinions are important then. How do we get those whom we have put into responsible positions to share the current situation with us, and learn how many years into the future we may be encumbered by bad decisions of the past, market volatility no one controls and other economic risks that exist in the real world? Time will tell.

          • Ron Mackey

            John Marshall Lee, David Walker spoke against their retirement but the City offer was zero pay raises and the State Arbitration agree but all along firefighters and the police were paying 8% of their income towards their own pension but the City placed all that money into the City’s General Fund, now is that their fault?

          • David Moore

            Seems JML still has his head up Walker’s rear end. Walker has long been an enemy of public employees and just a few years ago was working on a proposal to partially privatize the Postal Service.
            Privatization of public services has generally not worked. Here in AZ many of the prisons are privately run with a sweetheart deal that actually ended up being more expensive than state-run prisons. Even Joe Arpaio, long known to be to the right of Atilla the Hun is now against them. Want to go on … privately run charter schools … this time of year you hear expensive commercials on TV paid for with tax dollars that are not going to education. Last year one school was giving out TVs to parents who enrolled their kids.
            That is the world of privatization.

          • Jennifer Buchanan

            You cannot restore the fiscal integrity and competitive posture of this state unless you do three things. First, reduce state spending in absolute dollar terms. Second, renegotiate state employee benefit arrangements in a manner that is fair to employees, retirees and the taxpayers who must pay the tab. Third, rightsize state government and revise its operational practices. We also need to engage in regulatory relief and tax reform and other actions but these three actions are critical.

        • Jimfox

          As far as the Black Rock 300 goes, I will post my reflections for your feedback.
          I have people double-checking my list now.
          But John if you want to check things out for yourself go to www .zillow.com and compare Lake Ave to Seaside Ave taxes and then tell me if this is fair.
          Then look up all the political hacks you know in Black Rock, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Then look up their sisters and brothers, uncles and aunts.
          I’m working on the Brooklawn section now and the past DTC chairman received a 17% tax break on his home. So when Bill Finch said “some people’s taxes will go down and some people’s taxes will go up,” now I know what he meant. Any questions, call me. 203-895-8424.

          Tell Andy he has his oxygen hose in the wrong orifice again!

          • LennieGrimaldi

            Sonny, after reading this I’m reaching for my meds!

          • Andrew C Fardy

            Fox, please take your meds, you are again delusional. You have nothing on the alleged 300. It’s tough being you, I mean really mentally challenged, full of shit and gutless all at the same time. What a shame. Sorry Lennie, I could not resist.

          • Andrew C Fardy

            Fox, why don’t you come up here and tell me face to face? No, never mind, take your meds and get plenty of rest. I can’t challenge a sick little man who wishes he were a tough guy. I know you wish you could have done what Ron, Donald and I did but you did not have the balls.

      • Andrew C Fardy

        Fox, I promised Lennie not to get you upset because of your handicap but I must say where have I ever spoke out about the street cops? Never. Fox, take your meds and get a lot of rest.

      • Baffled in Bridgeport

        Is that the same guy who formed the exploratory committee?

    • Jennifer Buchanan

      Ron, for the record Dave Walker does not collect a government pension or health care benefits.

  • BPT REBEL

    Gaudett is a Finch puppet from Newtown, has less than zero respect in the department, while the ‘burbs recruit our cops offering as much as $85,000 to start with plenty of overtime.

    Another problem is the way officers get promoted, the old-fashioned way, it’s who you know and get on your knee pads for.

  • Donald Day

    I just talked to a friend of mine who is a Bridgeport officer who can retire in the next year. He said in his 25-plus years he can’t remember one officer from Bridgeport who left to go to a suburban department, none.

    He also said suburbanites who become officers here come here because it easier to get on the department here and they wait until a position opens up in their community or a community closer to where they live and they leave because the training they get here makes it a lot easier to get on those suburban departments. He also said you have a segment of suburban hires who come here and find dealing with the diverse population of Bridgeport is more difficult than they ever imagined, so they leave when a position in their community opens up.

    He said they leave to be closer to home, less stress dealing with diversity and finally, more money, less danger.

    The answer is simple, hire Bridgeport residents who have a stake in this community, who know how to deal with the diversity Bridgeport has to offer and who live here, have children who are enrolled in our schools and who pay taxes here. Why are we training police officers for the suburbs?

    • John Marshall Lee

      Great questions. What are the reasons we do not do this in Bridgeport? Word around town is the recent push to interest potential employees in police jobs barely netted 100 candidates. I thought real jobs with decent pay, benefits and pensions were in demand. Is this response strange? Also, are any sections of the department being hit harder than others? Is the City more vulnerable? Does the Police Commission keep track of any of these issues? Do they comment? Time will tell.

      • Donald Day

        JML, I don’t know why Bridgeport doesn’t do this. What I do know is Hartford requires all new hires for the police and fire departments to be Hartford residents. While there is no requirement to stay a resident one can guess they figure if you start out a resident you are more likely to remain a resident, but if you don’t they fare better than if you never lived in the city. What a financial stimulus if most of your emergency service providers lived inside your domicile and paid taxes to that city thus helping to pay their own salaries. What a concept.

        • flubadub

          If I remember correctly, Bridgeport used to have a residency requirement for City employees, especially police and fire. I thought it was struck down by a court after/during a contract negotiation.

          • Andrew C Fardy

            Police and fire people were required to live in the city when they took the entrance exam. They were also required to live in the city while they were on the job. Somewhere along the line both requirements were changed. Residency was negotiated out of the police and fire contracts and civil service just changed their rules. There is no court order preventing residency requirements just like there is no law for having a maximum age requirement.
            I agree with Donald Day, all prospective candidates for police and fire jobs should be city residents.
            From a political point of view, letting police and fire move out of town eliminated a large voting block that mayoral candidates used to come looking for votes, especially in primaries.

    • BOE SPY

      Don–your source says not one officer left in the past 25 years but those who did left for these reasons (A, B, C etc). These comments are contradictory.

  • BOE SPY

    This story sound like police department hype. How does the department not know how many officers may retire in the next 3-4 years? They do not hire in anticipation of these events? They just gave a police department civil service test. The article says many cops are leaving for private-sector jobs. That would be because no ex-military folks are competing for those jobs? Mall cops and armored car drivers make that much money? Who are they kidding?
    Maybe if the cops would stop shooting themselves in coffee shops, beating the crap out of citizens in the park and shooting BPT residents the city would have more money for raises. With as many people getting out of the army as we have, I am sure the BPD will be OK. If some of our cops want to move on to greener pastures, goodbye and good luck.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    BOE SPY, you can’t blame all the cops because of a few bad apples. You have got to remember there are only 105 cops in the patrol division, probably fewer now. There are five shifts. There are 105 supervisors for a total of 210. Where are the other 180 cops?
    The cops on patrol are the only thing standing between us and the criminals. They are the real heroes of this city.

  • Donald Day

    SPY, please read what I wrote. I said in his 25-plus years no Bridgeport resident who was a police officer left the Bridgeport department to go to a suburban police department. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

    • BOE SPY

      What you said was ‘He said in his 25-plus years he can’t remember one officer from Bridgeport who left to go to a suburban department, none.’ The phrase ‘one officer from BPT’ could mean ‘one office who worked in BPT’ or ‘one officer who lived in BPT.’ The meaning of ‘one BPT officer’ is ambiguous. Once you are an officer for the BPD you are a BPT officer. Your mind isn’t a waste. You do OK.

  • tallguy316

    Andy, where do you get your info? You say there are five shifts? I can name three. A, B and C shift, what others do you know of?

  • Andrew C Fardy

    I was wrong, there are four shifts, the fourth shift is the set shift. The number of officers on patrol is 105 per Gaudett.

  • tallguy316

    Set shift was disbanded in January and those officers were filtered into the other shifts and added cars to those shifts.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    That’s great, more guys on the street. I don’t understand how they cover the city 24-7 with three shifts. There are 168 hours in a week, with three shifts working 40 hours you can only cover 120 hours, how are the other 48 hours covered? Interesting.

  • John Marshall Lee

    And so it goes and we are back to management, budgets and City finances that have very little to do with the competency or courage of the women and men who have been trained for their public-safety posts and show up, on time and ready to work daily. Where is the Police Commission on these issues? Or do they have nothing to do with these issues? Why are they silent?
    And the City Council is so confused by the numbers that come to them from Finance each month. The 2014 budget shows about $87 Million of expenditures but the Police Department budget is divided into TEN different sub-classes, each with its own overtime allocations, shift payments and other benefits. Hard to understand. Save six pages, simplify under one heading … the gross overtime will quickly stand out as a problem OF FOUR-YEAR DURATION!!! What to do? (Keep confusing everyone regarding numbers, duties, etc. and complicate the data, and City Hall is almost there?) Time will tell.

    • tallguy316

      Andy, you have already answered your own question. Three shifts and within those shifts eight squads. It’s not a Monday to Friday job, some guys start on a Wednesday and finish on Sunday and so on so that how the other 48 hours are covered constant overlap on the fifth day of shift called flex day and flex day there are extra patrols because two squads are on.

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