SPRINGFIELD -- The union representing most Illinois State Police officers has agreed to an early retirement plan that could send more than 100 troopers into retirement, but officials hope it will result in more new troopers being hired.

SPRINGFIELD -- The union representing most Illinois State Police officers has agreed to an early retirement plan that could send more than 100 troopers into retirement, but officials hope it will result in more new troopers being hired.


Acting State Police Director Jonathon Monken announced the plan earlier this month. The deal allows troopers who retire before the end of this month to receive their full 6 percent raise scheduled for 2011 on their last day of work.


Agency officials believe the program will save $500,000 and that 70 to 90 officers will take advantage of it. A total of 114 officers are eligible to take the offer.


State police spokesman Capt. Scott Compton said the agency believes many officers are waiting to retire until they receive their raises next year. The agency is trying to save on payroll between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2011 – the end of the fiscal year


“Many of those officers are maxed out in the pension system,” Compton said. “This will save that salary for the next six-month period. The savings could be more or less, depending on the number of officers that take advantage of it.”


Mike Powell, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Trooper's Lodge 41, said the union did not ask for the incentive and is concerned that the early retirements will burden an already strained pension system and reduce headcount to dangerous levels.


But Powell said the FOP agreed to the program because it hopes headcount will rise. The agency can hire new troopers fresh out of the training academy who would make half or less of the salaries that retiring troopers make, he said. According to Powell, a fully staffed agency would have 2,200 officers, but state police have 1,800 officers today.


“We haven’t had this low number of troopers in 20 years,” Powell said. “Not only is it low, we have so many other initiatives that have been mandated on the department. We have far less people that are patrolling now than we ever had.


“The only reason that this union … agreed to this is because the director told us that by freeing up these salaries …. we’d free up enough to hire more. If there wasn’t the hope of hiring more troopers, I don’t think we’d agree to this.”


Compton said “the hope of the Illinois State Police is that those officers will be replaced future cadets in the training academy.”


Although state police officials have said otherwise, Powell questions whether the early retirement program is the first step in an agency-wide reorganization.


Last year, Gov. Pat Quinn proposed closing five of the state’s 21 district offices, including one in Litchfield, and laying off 460 officers. The plan was scuttled after the General Assembly increased traffic fines to inject more money into the agency


At a recent meeting, Monken told Powell that state police need to reorganize to survive, Powell said.


“I don’t buy that,” Powell said. “It’s a manpower problem, not a structural problem. That meeting takes place and then in the next breath, this offer takes place.


“It would be easier to have a reorganization plan if we had some people to reorganize.”


Chris Wetterich can be reached at (217) 788-1523.


 


Requirements to participate in early retirement:


An officer has to be 50 years old or older with 25 years of service or 55 years old or older with a minimum of 20 years service.


 


What Illinois State Police do


In addition to patrolling state highways, Illlinois State Police officers and agents investigate narcotics trafficking, missing persons, homicides, sexual assaults, fraud and forgery.


 


Retirements could go up


The number of Illinois State Police retirements could spike in 2012. Here is the number of troopers eligible for retirement over the next five years:


2010: 160


2011: 135


2012: 226


2013: 91


2014: 67


Source: Fraternal Order of Police Trooper's Lodge 41