The entire Park Hills Police Department is supporting a bill that would establish a retirement plan for police officers.
This is the fourth year State Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, has filed a bill like this.
Rupp said the first time he filed the bill, he proposed a full-blown pension plan. Now the proposal, Senate Bill 373, is a contribution plan similar to a 401K plan, which would not cost the state any money.
“If the bill is passed it would benefit all police officers in the state of Missouri with the exception of the Missouri State Highway Patrol,” said Park Hills Detective Mike Kurtz, adding the Patrol has their own retirement benefits in place.
Each officer who chooses to enroll in the program would contribute $20 a month to the plan. Funding would also come from a $7 surcharge that would be placed on criminal cases and traffic tickets when defendants plead guilty. There would be no cost to taxpayers, Kurtz said.
None of Rupp’s proposals have made it out of committee. He said about 10 years ago, a similar bill made it to the floor but it did not pass.
Rupp doesn’t expect the bill to get out of committee this year, either. One reason is because there is no companion bill in the House. He said the Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee has a lot of issues to handle this year.
He said he introduced the bill this year to keep the idea alive and in front of legislators for future times. He said he wants to get people talking about it.
Rupp said most police officers don’t have retirement plans so once they retire, they have difficulty affording health insurance.
Kurtz said he has seen numerous officers leave law enforcement to accept other employment that offers retirement. He said it has happened at Park Hills.
“The majority of officers work for smaller police departments which can’t afford to offer pension plans,” Kurtz said. “If the bill passed it would give police officers across Missouri something to look forward to (if) they remain in their profession.”
Kurtz said an officer, over the years, gets very familiar with his community and the community gets to know and trust the officer.
To the Park Hills officers, the bill just makes sense.
“Officers from the smaller police departments are required to have the same training and are held to the same high standards that larger police departments have,” Kurtz said. “The same laws are enforced by all officers. Many of the smaller town officers have to pay for their training out of their own pocket. Senate Bill 373 would be a way of paying the officer back for years of commitment to their communities.”
“It’s a way to say thank you,” Park Hills Police Chief Bill Holloway added.
Kurtz said the smaller departments can’t afford to pay the salaries the larger departments pay. He said it is hard for officers to save up money for retirement.
Any full-time officer working for a municipal department or a county, with the exception of St. Louis City Sheriff, may choose to become a member of the proposed retirement contribution system. Once a member meets retirement requirements, the officer can receive funds from the surcharges.
After reading over the Rupp’s newest proposed bill, Sheriff Dan Bullock said he was glad to see Rupp added sheriffs to the bill.
He said his department has the county’s retirement plan, which isn’t a very good retirement plan. He said he thinks the bill will be a good benefit for peace officers in Missouri.
The police department in Park Hills has contacted their local senators and the media to voice their support of the bill. They are encouraging other departments and the public to contact their local senators about this bill.