Retired cops could boost police numbers with new proposal

As Pennsylvania police departments struggle to recruit new officers, a proposed program would allow Philadelphia to recruit retired cops.

While some questions about costs remain, the proposal is one strategy to boost police department numbers.

House Bill 2830, sponsored by Rep. Jared Solomon, D-Philadelphia, would create a retired police officer program for Philadelphia to hire officers if they had no “unacceptable behavior or disciplinary action as an active police officer” and complete an eight-week training session.

Retired officers could be from any police department, not just Philadelphia.

“This legislation will provide some of our most experienced officers the opportunity to return to the police force at a time where their service is more valuable than ever,” Solomon wrote in a legislative memo.

Philadelphia’s police department has changed its recruitment policies in recent years after concerns about racism. The city has struggled to fill more than 500 vacancies.

“In the 2nd District, we’re down 20%. We need to do a number of things to get more police officers here,” Solomon said, talking of northeast Philadelphia. “And that can’t be a solution that’s 10, 15 years down the road. That needs to be a solution right now.”

The retired officers wouldn’t be expected to patrol the streets. Instead, they’d serve as mentors to younger officers and do desk work to free up younger officers to do important police work.

“They’re getting a salary and they’re doing the work, but also, they’re mentoring the next generation,” Solomon said. “As we’re getting new talent; we need a seasoned officer to be able to talk about best practices.”

Solomon noted the pension benefits received by retirees are not to be affected by the program, but said that how accrued benefits for returning to work is “something we need to work out.”

Solomon’s plan isn’t the only one trying to improve policing. A plethora of Republican and Democratic proposals have looked to increase funding or change policies to make policing better. Police chiefs have also testified to the General Assembly about hiring woes, as The Center Square previously reported.

Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Clearfield, has also introduced a resolution for a bipartisan commission to develop recommendations for improving police officer recruiting and retention. Both proposals by Langerholc and Solomon sit in committee, referred to Local Government and Law & Justice, respectively, awaiting further action.

“We need a different approach because what we’re doing right now is not working,” Solomon said. “We’re now in crisis in Philadelphia.”

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