Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg yesterday urged changes
in retirement and pension rules for firefighters and
police officers to help counter the wave of early
retirement applications that has followed the Sept. 11
"We've had a dramatic increase in the number of
applications for retirement," Nicholas Scoppetta, the
Fire Department commissioner, said yesterday. The Fire
Department, which usually receives 40 applications for
retirement each month, has been receiving about 40 a
week since Jan. 1, he said.
"It's exactly the same issue with the Police
Department," said Mr. Bloomberg, who joined Mr.
Scoppetta in speaking to reporters at a Manhattan
Currently, the pension for firefighters and police
officers is based on the salary earned during their
last three years of service. The high amount of
overtime earned after the attack on the World Trade
Center has encouraged many to retire early to ensure
Mr. Scoppetta said legislation had been proposed in
Albany that would base pensions not on the last three
years of annual salary but on the highest annual
salary, removing the incentive for early retirement.
The firefighters and police officers would be able to
retire several years from now and still have pensions
based on their 2001 salaries.
Matty James, speaking for the Uniformed
Firefighters Association, said he hoped the bill would
pass soon. "You get guys torn between dedication to
the job and dedication to their families," he said.
"We're in trouble if we keep losing men."
He said some firefighters who were earning about
$59,000 a year made $75,000 in 2001.
Under the current system, the annual pension,
distributed in monthly payments, equals half the
average salary earned during the last three years of
service. Firefighters and police officers can retire
with full pensions after 20 years of service. A police
officer earns $31,305 a year to start and about
$60,000 after five years.
The Albany bill was introduced by State Senator
Vincent Leibell III on March 5. It could be considered
by the Civil Service and Pensions Committee as soon as
April 9 and could be voted on soon after that.