The Berlin Police Department has three disparate retirement plans. First, there is a long-closed legacy pension plan covering our longest tenured staff. Second, there is a reasonably good 401(k) plan that covers the middle strata of our staff. That plan was short-lived however and replaced with an inadequate plan that has covered all new employees for a number of years.
The Berlin Police Commission feels strongly that we need both immediate and longer range corrections to this system to make it equitable to all employees. Our police officers deserve a plan that will allow them a reasonable and fair retirement. Our town needs them to have this to improve our retention of experienced officers and to aid our recruiting in this very competitive environment.
To this end, Commission Chairman Paul Eshoo and I have been participating in a series of meetings over the past year with all stakeholders – the mayor, town manager, finance director, members of the Board of Finance and the Town Council, and the Berlin Police Union.
Several scenarios have been proposed and discussed. There are, of course, many opinions on how best to accomplish this. What Chairman Eshoo and I are proposing is as follows:
— immediately (Jan. 1, 2022) move all “new” 401(k) participants into the original, stronger 401(k).
— a mid-2022 implementation of an upgrade to that 401(k) to include stepped increases to the town’s matching percentage for all personnel as they reach 10, 15 and 20 years of service. This is one of the best ways to reward and recognize them for the service they provide to all of us, around the clock, every day.
We had hoped this project could have been completed a few months ago, but sometimes the system moves slowly. Now we enter the political silly season without this being resolved.
An appeal to both sides on this issue: Please, let’s approve the first phase now and make it effective Jan. 1; and let’s all commit to have the second phase with the step increases in place by mid-2022.
Our police officers, and the taxpayers, deserve to have this done right and not turned into a political football.
Steven K. Wilson is vice-chair of the Berlin Police Commission.