Philadelphia officials are considering adopting a proposal that would allow the city and its police department to rehire retired police officers and civilian employees in an effort to fill staff vacancies.
Council Majority Leader Cherelle Parker proposed the legislation as a way to address police staffing shortages amid rising gun violence in the city.
The bill would not only impact the police department but other city departments as well. Retired employees would be eligible for rehiring and would receive their retirement pension in addition to a full-time salary.
Speaking to the city council, Parker referred to the police department’s struggle to recruit and retain officers, as well as the shortages in adjacent departments like the Department of Prisons and the Department of Licenses and Inspections, both of which are experiencing a dwindling of manpower.
If adopted, the legislation would require the mayor to declare that extraordinary circumstances exist that threaten the “public health, safety and welfare of the city” (referring to crime and building safety risks) and to thus allow departments to rehire retired employees without suspending their pension benefits.
Indeed, the bill states that rehired employees can receive a full salary in addition to their pension benefits for up to a period of three years.
However, rehired employees are not eligible for additional credits to their pension plan and would have to pay union dues.
If passed, the bill would require the mayoral administration to identify the specific departments and types of employees who could be rehired, conditional upon approval from the City Council.
Parker, who could run for mayor in 2023, described the move as a “short-term solution” to fill the police ranks as crime spikes in the city.
“We do not have the luxury of time to recruit and train all new employees to fill vacancies,” she said during a recent council meeting. “We are facing a crisis now, and we must respond accordingly. This is just adding another tool in Philadelphia’s toolbox to ensure that we are making the public health and public safety of our city a No. 1 priority.”
The move comes weeks after Philadelphia removed a residency requirement for police recruits to meet hiring quotas. The residency requirement was a reform placed in 2020 to boost diversity within the department.
Currently, the department lacks over 500 officers due to vacancies and injury claims. It is authorized to maintain 6,380 officers.
Police unions are already looking over the legislation.
John McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5, called it an “interesting” plan to get “help on the streets.”
The union representing firefighters and EMS paramedics also hailed the move as a way to address “dire” shortages.
“If they could bring back some medics that are willing to come back, that would help immensely,” a spokesman said.