More than 70 veteran police officers and fire-fighters in the District, many of them high ranking officials, retired en masse last Friday to take advantage of a special retirement pay boost provided in recent City Council legislation.
The sudden exodus of deputy chiefs, inspectors and other officials has produced visible gaps in the hierarchy of the D.C. Police and Fire departments, U.S. Park Police, Capitol Police and Executive Protective Service. Those officials remaining, including D.C. Police Chief Maurice J. Cullinane, say there is no reason for concern, and plenty of aggressive younger officers are eagerly awaiting promotions to fill the gaps.
The exodus, timed to beat on Oct. 1 deadline for eligibility for an immediate 7.05 per cent increase in retirement pay, includes 23 officers from D.C. Police, 22 from the D.C. Fire Department, nine from Park Police, nine from Executive protective Service and four from Capitol Police.
Among those retiring were a deputy chief, two inspectors and two captains from D.C Police and a deputy chief, an inspector and the only assistant chief of the Park Police.
The rash of retirements leaves the 4,185-member D.C. Police Department with only 140 officers who have 20 years or more experience.
"I'm not in the least bit worried," said Cullinane. "I've never seen the department at a loss to function. . . It will require some reshuffling of men (but) it will give some younger men a chance for promotions."
Those who will be promoted, Cullinane said, "have had in-service training, and I think the younger men will do as well as if not better than (the retirees)."
He said retirements will give "incentive to younger men to do better."
The pay bill that triggered the retiement stampede is emergency legislation enacted recently by the City Council to give police and firemen a pay raise comparable to the 7.05 per cent boost just approved by president Carter for regular GS employees of the federal and District governments.
The City Council measure provided additionally that police officers and firefighters who were eligible for retirement (20 years or more service) could tack the 7.05 per cent increase directly to their retirement annuity if they retired before Oct. 1.
This arrangement proved more attractive to some oficers than staying on. If an offer continued in active service after Oct. 1, the 7.05 per cent increase would be applied to his salary. Under the existing formula for determining retirement pay, it could take several more years of active duty before he could reach the same retirement pay he would get immediately by retiring before Oct. 1 ad having the 7.05 per cent increase applied directly to his annuity.
Straight or "voluntary" retirement by the police or fire department is computed at 50 per cent of the highest 12-month period of active duty pay for the officer.
The fire and police pay raise bill has not yet been signed by Mayor Walter E. Washington and could conceivably be vetoed by him. He has until Oct. 13 to act on the measure.
On the one hand, he is under pressure to bring police and firemen into parity with GS employees. On the other, he has an opinion from Corporation Counsel John Risher, the mayor's chief legal advisor, saying the pay bill violates an earlier act of Congress that requires collective bargaining with fire and police unions, rather thatdirect legislation, on pay and other compensation matters.
The mayor was faed with a similar situation last year and let a fire and police pay bill go into effect by signing nor vetoing it, in effect, doing nothing.
Among high ranking D.C. Police officials who opted for the Oct. 1 retirement are Deputy Chief Arthur F. DiGennaro, head of community relations; Insp. Thomas J. Wolfrey, records division commander, and Insp. George R. Suter, head of the police and fire clinic.
Fire Department officials include Deputy Chief Scott L. Seymour, head of the training division, and Battalion Chiefs Lawrence Leary and Weldon L. Crider.
In the Park Police, both Asst. Chief Franklin A. Arthur and Deputy Chief Milton R. Lomax retired.
In the Executive Protective Service, retiring officials include Chief Earl Drescher, who went out on medical disability, aand Deputy John B. Brophy, head of the EPS operations.