HOPKINTON — A program that brings retired officers back to work on a limited basis has proved to be successful for the Hopkinton Police Department, said Police Chief David S. Palmer.
The Retired Officers Corps program allows those who are qualified and have left the force within the last three years to work up to 75 hours a year, or whatever is allowable according to their particular pension plan.
Palmer said for his department it has meant having former Sgt. Christopher Lyman and Detective Ron Cole work in various situations and not be relegated to duties specifically performed by lesser-trained reserve officers. In many municipalities, former officers become reserve officers, working road construction details, town events and being available for school games and dances.
Palmer said reservists are always necessary. But, he said, “to have an experienced officer who has gone through the police training academy, can carry a firearm and aid in any emergency is invaluable to the department.”
Palmer said that Cole, a former court officer, found himself doing just that recently when a suspect was taken to 4th Division District Court for arraignment after being arrested. Cole was available when no other officer was, said Palmer.
Funding for the officers is taken from the police overtime budget. The department’s full-time officers have the first claim on any overtime that comes up, but when there is an open spot, the retired officers are called in.
Recently, Palmer said he used Lyman to create and initiate a seat belt safety presentation for the local schools, calling on his expertise in dealing with the subject and the children.
The retired officers must continue to keep up their certifications. If they needed new uniforms they have to buy them. They are also responsible for the cost of any necessary recertification programs as well as any firearm training, Palmer said.
According to the town’s union contract, a full-time officer who is called in for any amount of time — whether it be a half-hour or more — must be paid for a minimum of four hours. No so under the retiree program. The officer is paid $30 an hour, no minimum time required. The amount is what most junior officers are paid for overtime hours, the chief said.
“This brings a little more harmony to the police department,” he said. Palmer said it is mutually beneficial to other officers when they aren’t forced back to work because no one else wants to take a shift.
He said he doesn’t think either officer was really ready to give up being a police officer, but pension reform pushed them into early retirement. “This gives them a chance to keep going,” Palmer said.