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Pittsburgh might increase mandatory retirement age to keep experienced officers

Bob Bauder
| Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, 5:21 p.m.
The city of Pittsburgh skyline, from the West End Overlook, Sunday, June 5th, 2011. 
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
The city of Pittsburgh skyline, from the West End Overlook, Sunday, June 5th, 2011. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review

Pittsburgh intends to raise the mandatory retirement age for police officers to 70, up from 65, so it can retain experienced cops who choose to remain on the job.

City Council will introduce legislation on Tuesday that would change the City Code requirement for police officers to retire at age 65, according to Dan Gilman, Mayor Bill Peduto's chief of staff.

“What's happening now we have some of our best officers who are in great shape... who are being forced out,” Gilman said Friday. “They're simply going to other departments and being great leaders while collecting retirement benefits from the city of Pittsburgh. This legislation in no way forces anyone to stay. It gives the extra five years for those officers who are still in great health and great shape who want to continue on the job.”

Officers with 20 years of service or more are eligible to retire at age 50 with a full pension.

Robert Swartzwelder, president of Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1, said the union had no immediate objection, but he would wait to hear more details before deciding whether to support the bill.

He said that mandatory retirement has forced officers who did not meet the minimum requirements to retire without a pension.

“I've had several members in that category,” he said, noting that the city received state aid to help cover their pensions. “I had one member who had 19 and three-quarter years on the job. They forced him off the job and did not give that member a pension.”

Neither Gilman nor Swartzwelder could immediately provide the number of officers who might benefit.

Gilman said the city needs experienced officers to mentor recruits.

“People who have had decades on the force, who still at this age want to be a police officer, want to serve the residents of the city of Pittsburgh and don't want to go anywhere, why would I want to kick them out the door?” he said “It makes no policy sense.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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