Houston, Dallas Pension Reforms Spur Police Retirements 

Surge in retirements due to changes that reduced benefits for officers.

The cities of Houston and Dallas have seen a surge in police retirements in 2017, a result of recent pension reforms for Texas retirement systems covering both cities’ law enforcement that resulted in reduced benefits for participants.

The Houston Police Department has had 362 officers either retire or trigger the retirement process during the fiscal year that ended June 30, which is the highest annual total for which records are available, according to the Houston Chronicle. Another 52 officers left the department voluntarily without having accumulated the years of service necessary to draw a pension check. That total number of resignations is approximately twice the amount that has been typical over the last decade. 

Meanwhile, in Dallas, 72 city police officers will leave by the end of August, said Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata, according to the local CBS television news affiliate.

“We’re losing some of our most experienced detectives,” said Mata. “The investigator you want to come out and solve that homicide, that you need to come out and solve that sexual assault.”

At the end of May, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law pension reform for both the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund and the city of Houston.

The Dallas pension reform includes a reduction to benefits, and the creation of a new retirement plan. Additionally, it calls for contribution increases from participants, and decreases to Dallas’ contribution rates.  The reform package for Houston, known as the Houston Pension Solution, reduces the city’s $8.2 billion in unfunded liabilities through a reduction of benefits.

Although the pensions reforms were signed in May, the workforce drain began at the end of 2016 as it became clear that pension reform in 2017 was becoming increasingly inevitable. According to Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers Union, 124 officers signed up for retirement in December 2016.

“We’re hoping that the additional cadet classes more than keep up with the loss of manpower,” Hunt said in a statement in February. “If each cadet class operates at its maximum capacity, we will more than make up for the retirements, many of which have resulted from pension recalculations.”

Sgt. John Pohlman, who had been the most senior officer among the Houston Police Department with 49 years on the force when he retired in June, said in February that “the pension situation has pushed me over the edge about waiting past July 1” to retire. “When I did the recalculation, I lost $1,200 a month if I don’t leave by the end of June. To be honest, the pension thing didn’t push me over the edge. It made me doggone sure I was going to leave.”

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