TOWSON, Md. — Baltimore County will now offer police officers and firefighters an added incentive to put off retirement and stay with the county longer.
Those who were hired after July 1, 2007, and stay for at least three years past their retirement eligibility, can get a lump-sum payment for three years of retirement benefits in a special account when they do leave.
The DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Program) incentive will "enhance our efforts to recruit and retain world-class talent" and encourage "veteran officers and firefighters to continue their work on behalf of our communities," said County Executive Johnny Olszewski in a statement, noting that the County Council approved the measure.
The DROP incentive is similar to one that officers and firefighters hired before July 1, 2007 already get.
Police officers are eligible to retire after 25 years of service, and firefighters after 30 years.
The county police department said it has struggled to retain enough officers, as have many other law enforcement agencies nationwide. In January, the county expanded partnerships with CCBC and Baltimore County Public Schools in hopes of getting a larger and more diverse workforce; sworn officers and cadets now had the option of a fast-tracked criminal justice degree from CCBC.
Last year, the department was short about 108 officers and offered a $10,000 bonus for new hires; the hiring bonuses and incentives also came up in the budget proposed for next year. The county police union has been sharply critical of Chief Melissa Hyatt and recently voted to force her to step down.
Olszewski noted that the new DROP incentive would not cost the county any additional funds, because the county and police/fire unions agreed to increase the contributions of all employees to the retirement system.
The DROP account will also include the employee's contributions made to the retirement system during the three-year DROP period, and a 5 percent interest on the DROP allowance. When the employee retires, they can get the account as a lump sum distribution or they can roll it over into an eligible retirement plan.