Monday, August 11, 2008

Police Pensions: I Can't Get That Worked Up

Mr. Stamford posted a rather nasty rant condemning local retired police who want an increase in their pension. His reasoning went something like “I pay taxes, I don’t get a pension, you should have saved money like I’m doing, suck it up and stop complaining.” It’s not just him. Many commenters on the Advocate article about the issue expressed similar contempt.

My initial reaction: I don’t like living in an area where people feel so overworked, stressed and tight on money that they have to blast other people who ask for help.

However, I don’t think the majority of people feel so bitter toward others. Most people I know in this area are generous and sympathetic despite the stress of living in an expensive area. I think it’s just that the vocal people on the internet tend to be negative.

I try to avoid getting sucked into angry internet complaining, but I did want to make the point that we do need civil servants like police and teachers. We need to offer good benefits because that is what attracts the kind of stable people we want in those jobs. I want my children to have experienced teachers, and I want well-compensated policemen to patrol my community. I’m not sure why those people are perceived as lazy suckers of taxpayers’ money.

One big focus of the complainers was that police can retire after 20 years. People were just so pissed off about that. I don’t want to work for 30-35 years, either, but I can certainly see why police work is stressful enough for 20 years to be enough of a career. I think 20 years is early retirement, anyway, and they don’t get a full pension for that, so I’m not sure what all the beeyotching is about.

It’s not outrageous for police to ask for help with their pension. Or… am I just young, and when I hit 40, I’ll get bitter about taxes, too? Or… is it because I don’t own a home yet, so I don’t experience the horror of real estate taxes? If this is what real estate taxes do to people, I’m gonna keep renting.


Anonymous said...

Some of these retirees asking for help with their pension retired after 15yrs on the job. It's hard to feel bad for someone who retires in their late 40's. Now someone who spends 30 yrs on the job and is now their late 70's, that a whole different story.

Mr. Stamford said...

My argument is that the retired police officers signed a union contract and are getting the pension they were promised...end of story. If the pension is not providing them enough money, it should come as no surprise. They have known about the terms of the contract since they signed up.

So why do the tax payers of Stamford now have to help them out further when the city clearly does not have enough money.

Many of the police officers in this city make six figures and are very well paid. There is no reason they cannot contribute to their pension AND contribute to a retirement/savings account to live off of.

patty said...

Stamford Talk, paying real estate taxes doesn't make me bitter.

Do certain elected officials bug the bejeepers out of me? Sure. Especially a Board of Education that oversees the majority of the city's budget and shows a complete lack of vision in how to spend that money. But that's a different issue.

I don't begrudge real estate tax dollars going toward civil servants' retirement. There's always a trade off; work in the private sector for more compensation, or work in the public sector with (generally speaking) better benefits including a pension of some kind. I hope the city offers a fair compensation package to all of its civil servants so it can attract competent people who will do a good job (especially teachers anyone involved in public safety!).

As I wrote on Mr. Stamford's site, 1982 was a different era. It was a time when a pension meant a comfortable retirement. Saving through a 401k wasn't seen as such a necessity.

Stamford Talk said...

Many commenters on the Advocate site mentioned the 15 year guy, but he is likely an exception. How about the 90 year old widow of the guy who retired after 40 years? The pension she receives is 1,000 from his job and 1,500 from her career as a teacher. Good thing she worked for 40 years, too, or she’d be living off 12,000 a year, plus her $700/mo social security.

“End of story?” That’s not the end. What happens to these old people who can’t afford to live here on tiny pensions? I guess they move away from their lifelong friends and family. So long, granny!

Yes, they signed a contract, but the cost of living has gone up higher than anticipated. Who could have known when they signed a contract in the 80s how much life in Stamford would change? The article focused on retirees, many of whom retired 20 years ago. Maybe some current cops, or recent cops, make over 100,000 a year. I bet most of the people in the article did not make that much money, and if they did, it was near the end of a long career.

Why do people want to take such a harsh stand against retirees- people who served the community for 20, 30, 40 years- and not allow any adjustments for cost of living?

Because Stamford can’t afford to help them? Of course we can. The recent boom should have added quite a bit to our coffers, and we should not forget those who helped Stamford become what it is today.

Anonymous said...

My father is a retired police officer. He retired after 20+ years of service in the late 80s. He was in his late 40’s.

The reason they retire early is because a cops life span is shortened due to work related stress. They retire early so they can enjoy their lives, hopefully, stress free. My Dad has known many people who have passed on 5-10 years after they retired. He also receives a pension, and it's not much. He has always held at least two jobs. Now he is in his late 60’s and works hard to make ends meet. I don't know how much longer he can keep that pace up.

The pensions just don't cover the high costs we all pay today. If prices didn't skyrocket then there wouldn't be a problem, but they did and now retirees are having a hard time making ends meet. If the retirees can’t make ends meet, why not help them?

Mr. Stamford said...

I just do not believe in preferential treatment for certain citizens. If you are going to give gov't freebies to retired cops, where do you stop? Our combat veterans from Vietnam do not has as nice as package as these cops.

Yes, the cost of living expenses in this area has grown very fast, but that is why you move to some place less expensive. Harsh? Maybe, but that is how the rest of the country lives.

In regards to this comment "The reason they retire early is because a cops life span is shortened due to work related stress." Please cite some proof...that sounds like total BS. Ask most cops and a large percentage of their day is spent sitting around in their squad car bored. I think teachers often have it much worse in terms of stress than cops. There is not THAT much crime here.

Jane said...

Retirees from private industry don't get "adjustments" to their pensions either, but I don't see the newspaper doing any front page articles on them. And it's misleading to cite statistics about how hard is it for these retirees to live on their pensions--no one, whether in public service or private industry, is supposed to be able to live on their pensions--they're part of a three legged stool that also includes Social Security benefits and private savings. And please don't say that the union negotiators didn't anticipate inflation, because that's just absurd. At the time some of these retirees were in service, inflation was a much bigger factor than it is today, so of course it was considered. We all have to live within our means, and that's often difficult and can require lifestyle adjustments or even moving to an area with a lower cost of living. Trying to wheedle more cash from the already tax-burdened Stamford residents by putting yourself on the front page of the paper is NOT an acceptable option. Everybody and their dog has financial woes--we just don't all whine about it in public and try to portray as unfair something that doesn't have an iota of unfairness about it.

Anonymous said...

Everyone should anticipate prices going up and save enough for retirement. It should be expected as much today as it should have in the 70's and 80's. If they didnt/you dont, then regardless of work-related stress in a previous career, you may find yourself working late into your life or downsizing.

People just feel entitled these days regardless of the choices they made when they were younger.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for some positive-ness w/ your post. Honestly, I deleted my bookmark to Mr. Stamford's blog after reading his rant. I'm not going debate the rights/wrongs of giving our city's retirees a cost of living increase in their pensions.

I have to comment on his overall view of our police. "Many officers make six figures today." Yes, they do, Mr. Stamford. While today's officers are better compensated than in the past, ask those officers how many days (including holidays, weekends) per year they are working. Or, how many hours per day they work on average? They don't get those six figures for doing nothing. Whether or not you agree, being in uniform, whether on a private-duty job or patrolling, that cop is performing a function for us. Maybe you'd like to see less of a police presence on our streets? I personally find that a comfort.

Regarding Mr. Stamford's comment about the stress level of the job, I will grant that Stamford officers are probably not running from call to call 24-7. But who do you call when you need assistance? Ever dial 911 and see how quickly an officer is there to help you? Has your stress level gone from a "zero" to the level of a "baby not breathing" call? If that doesn't take a toll after a while, I don't know what does. Mr. Stamford, maybe you should look into a "ride-along" for a shift, maybe even on a Friday night to see what the job is really like?

It's unfortunate that police are not as respected as they used to be (and I'll admit that maybe some of that was brought upon themselves by some bad apples). But, we are so easy to criticize. We don't read about the 99% of our police officers that are working at EVERY hour of the day and night to protect and serve us.

Curious Resident said...

There is no doubt in my mind that we in Stamford are very lucky to have incredibly valuable and brave men protect our town but some of them....I wonder....

When I see Police sitting idle on the phone in police cars in front of Starbucks for an hour while keeping their cars running, I wonder...

When my son watched them go right up to the coffee bar without paying and questions me, I wonder,

When I go to the car wash in Stamford and watch the police sign a book (their contract) and am told he is there at least three times a week I wonder.

When I see how much overtime we pay without hiring more officers, I wonder...

Thank you to all the fine police officers who work the others....please remember how hard we all work to support this great town.