In April it was reported by the New Haven Register that Branford, Connecticut’s Police Department was looking to restore defined benefit pensions for their officers. Yesterday, that push came to be as the Representative Town meeting unanimously approved both the four-year contract for officers and the move back to a defined benefit pension.
In 2011, the Town of Branford moved all of their newly hired police officers to a defined contribution 401(k) plan, which triggered negative consequences for recruitment and retention of officers. While Branford was recruiting police officers into their ranks and training them, many officers decided to leave Branford and take up employment in a neighboring department that offers a defined benefit pension. As such, the town was spending financial and human resources training officers who weren’t actually staying in the town.
The story of this small town just north of New Haven is important because we here at NPPC have heard it before. In 2012, Palm Beach, Florida decided to close all of its public pension plans and move current employees to a hybrid defined benefit contribution plan. In response, Palm Beach experienced an exodus of police officers and firefighters over the next four years. The loss of employees ended up costing the city upwards of $20 million in training costs. In 2016, to right their wrong, Palm Beach retired to defined benefit pensions for their police officers and firefighters.
Police officers and other public employees across the country, who dedicate their lives to serving their communities, know that having a defined benefit pension means good retirement security. Without a pension, many retired public employees would not be able to retire with dignity. Knowing this, police officers, firefighters, and other public employees won’t stay in places that don’t offer a pension.
In most cases, workers who dedicate their lives to public service, make less than they would in the private sector. A pension is a way to thank them for their service to their communities. Pensions are an earned benefit that allow public employees to retire with dignity.