Bill Would Raise Police Retirement Age

Posted April 1, 2005 at 5:49pm

Capitol Police officers could stave off retirement for a few additional years under legislation recently introduced in the House.

The bill, authored by Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), would increase the mandatory retirement age for Capitol Police officers by three years to age 60.

While Congress has previously waived the age restrictions on a temporary basis — most recently in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — it is not immediately apparent why the Indiana lawmaker is seeking to raise the age limit now.

Neither police officials nor the labor committee that represents rank-and-file officers pushed for the legislation, according to representatives for both groups.

In a statement addressing the issue, Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said only: “If a person is mentally and physically capable, [they] should be considered.”

A Burton spokesman did not return several telephone calls seeking comment, and the lawmaker did not make a public statement when he introduced the legislation in mid-March.

While praising Burton’s actions, Capitol Police Labor Committee Chairman Andy Maybo similarly said the organization has not sought an extension of the retirement age.

“The United States Capitol Police [Fraternal Order of Police] Labor Committee appreciates and supports Congressman Burton for introducing legislation in favor of the officers, although at this time, the Capitol Police labor union has not made any formal requests for such a change,” Maybo said.

Under current age limitations, Capitol Police employees are forced to retire after reaching age 57, although the Capitol Police Board, the department’s governing body, can grant individual waivers allowing officers to remain on the force three more years.

The legislation offered by Burton would raise the mandatory age to 60 and allow the board to grant individual waivers to officers until the age of 65.

But Maybo said the Capitol Police labor committee will continue to seek other changes in the department’s retirement program.

“We’ll be looking into the issues of retirement age in the near future,” Maybo said. “Our first and foremost goal is to achieve a better retirement system for the officers, rather than raise the retirement age at this time.”

The current retirement program allows officers to retire after 25 years and provides a pension at 38 percent of their salary level (as measured by their last three years of employment), in addition to funds invested in the Thrift Savings Plan for federal employees.

According to Gary Hankins, a retired D.C. Metropolitan Police officer and a consultant for the Capitol Police labor committee, the program being sought by officers would allow retirement after 20 years and would increase base payments to 50 percent of salary levels.

CORRECTION: Capitol Police regulations require officers to retire after reaching age 57. Officers are not eligible for individual retirement waivers; however, the Capitol Police Board may waive the mandatory retirement age on a department-wide basis, including any officer up to 60 years of age. This was incorrectly reported in the April 4 article “Bill Would Raise Police Retirement Age.”