City of Laredo attempting to enforce retirement age limit for LPD, firefighters

LAREDO, TEXAS (KGNS) – The city is considering cutting the time people serve in the police and fire department as a way to cut down on the budget. Some council members also say imposing this designated retirement time, would ensure officers are fit for duty.

City council member Charlie San Miguel proposed this measure. Supporters on city council say what’s at stake here is public safety. Opponents say this will impact the livelihoods of those who protect Laredoans.

Whether it’s a car accident, grass fire, flooding, or murder, they’re the first responders. Police and fire fighters have physically and mentally demanding jobs.

Starting pay for police officers is about 49,000, and about 47-for firefighters. However, the job can be physically taxing.

That concerns city council members considering making retirement mandatory at 25 years of service or 55 years of age, whichever comes first.

But the unions for both departments oppose this idea.

“We want the people to know that it’s age discrimination and that the city shouldn’t be taking this stance”, said David Gonzalez.

Gonzalez represents the fire department union. He along with the police union’s representative, Luis Dovalina, oppose the plan.

Dovalina says it would alter employees’ expectations.

“When the individual goes into the service, or the federal service, he’s told at this age is when you’re going to have to retire. When officers join in this department, they were never told that after a certain time period you need to retire”, said Dovalina.

Union officials say if an officer’s ability to perform is ever questioned, there is already a system in place to address it.

“Essentially, what it states is that if a firefighter or police officer is not mentally or physically fit for duty, the city has a right to question that”, said Garza.

City leaders say it would save money in the budget. But since the amount of service affects the amount reflected on a retirement check, employees are also looking at their bottom line.

“If there’s an age mandatory, age 55, if he hasn’t competed his 20th year by that age, you’re forcing somebody to retire, or he needs to retire. He’s going to have to go out there somewhere else. Imagine someone looking for a job at age 55, 56, 57 or 58 for that matter”, said Dovalina.

Fire and police department employees comprise about 32-percent of the city’s workforce about 2,547.

This is why the city is considering taking these measures to trim the budget.

This proposal will be discussed during collective bargaining next year.

That’s when the city police department and city representatives meet for contract negotiations.

That’s expected to start in June of 2016.