Many years ago then city administrator John Serpe had an interesting idea: put retired police officers back to work part-time at the station. He envisioned retirees taking care of administrative functions to free up other officers to go out and fight crime. The retirees would work a limited number of hours so as not to mess up their pensions.
The idea never got off the ground here but it's high time for another look.
In the past few years we've lost many good law enforcement officers to early retirement. Changes in the county insurance plans suggest that within the next year we'll lose several experienced deputy sheriffs in a department that's already sorely in need of more personnel.
Right now a few retired officers work as "trip officers" for the sheriff''s department which means they transport prisoners to and from state institutions. Many of these venerable retirees have been away from the street for many years.
By tapping into a fairly large pool of recent healthy retirees the sheriff -- and the city police department, too -- could take advantage of well-trained personnel who wouldn't need retraining. The recent retirees could, for example, escort jail inmates to and from court, serve civil process, help out with administrative duties and even occasionally relieve road deputies and detectives when additional help is needed. Plus, the voice of experience could be there to mentor new hires.
It seems utterly foolish not to put this talent to work.
Of course, it may take more than just one person to think outside the box. The unions may have to agree to modifying collective bargaining agreements and maybe some pension rules would have to be fixed. At the end of the day, though, it should be a win-win. The public gets the benefit of highly-trained, experienced officers who, in turn, can earn some extra money while working pretty much on their own terms.
A final note. John Serpe may have been ahead of his time. So tight is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's personnel crunch that the RCMP has been getting relief help from retired members. There's no reason it can't be tried here.