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Retirements rattle Glen Cove police force

Sgt. Patrick Hall, who will retire in October,

Sgt. Patrick Hall, who will retire in October, patrols the St. Rocco's Feast in Glen Cove. (Aug. 1, 2012) Credit: Linda Rosier

Sgt. Patrick Hall plans to hang up his Glen Cove police cap in October, after 28 years on the job. "For me, it was always about helping the people of Glen Cove," he said last week.

Hall, 55, president of the city's Police Benevolent Association, said his "guys feel the same. We want to be here. We want to help."

Many of Hall's "guys" -- men and women -- are similar in another respect: They are readying to retire.

The Glen Cove Police Department started this year with 52 sworn staff; 23 have submitted letters of intent to retire.

Not all 23 are expected to leave this year, but five have either retired or resigned. Ten more could be gone by January, Hall said.

"The department has sort of aged out," Chief William Whitton said, describing the turnover as "a natural progression."

The spate of departures is straining city finances and stretching police resources.

The City Council last month approved issuing up to $3.5 million in long-term bonds for retirement costs, including those of five cops.

Whitton said his force, currently at 47, will work overtime and the risk of becoming overtired."You can't discount the fact that physical fatigue can take a toll," he said.

Whitton said his ideal staffing level for Glen Cove's population of about 27,000 is 56, but he doesn't expect a reduced force will mean increased crime."For that to occur, our resources would have to drop precipitously from here," he said.

Mayor Ralph Suozzi estimated the number of police retirees between now and year's end will be closer to five than 10.

Additionally, the PBA's five-year contract ends Dec. 31, perhaps forcing some cops on the fence to choose between retiring with familiar benefits or face any new terms negotiated for the next contract.

The city has hired new cops, but not enough to make up for this year's expected departures. Five new officers are to hit the streets by January after they complete training.

Their salaries range from about $35,000 to $47,000, compared with Hall's 2011 salary of about $151,000.

Eugene O'Donnell, a former NYPD officer and a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the trend is not unique to Glen Cove.

"This is a national reality now, that police departments are shrinking," O'Donnell said. In a shaky economy with rising pension obligations, "it's not an easy thing for a municipality to see its way out of."

Whitton said his department could effectively manage whatever comes next.

"It's not realistic to replace everybody that has retired in a year and a half," he said, "but you go forward and do what you can."

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