A file photo of a Suffolk police car. (March 2,...

A file photo of a Suffolk police car. (March 2, 2010) Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

More than 70 Suffolk police officers, including top union leaders, plan to retire as part of a deal to save the jobs of new recruits, officials said Tuesday.

Senior members of the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association, as well as the detective and supervisors' unions, had until Monday to take the early retirement incentive. Only 38 were needed to assure that rookies would not be laid off this summer, when they are scheduled to finish the training academy.

Among those who have left are longtime Suffolk PBA president Jeff Frayler and first vice president Bill Tricarico. New PBA president Noel DiGerolamo, former second vice president, said the number of voluntary police departures means it's less likely there will be any police department layoffs or demotions this year.

More than 400 employees from non-police bargaining units are scheduled to be laid off June 30, as County Executive Steve Bellone grapples with a projected three-year budget gap of $530 million.

"I think it's a very strong message from the executive branch that they're not willing to compromise public safety," DiGerolamo said. "They're willing to work collectively with the labor unions to ensure that."

Bellone aides said Tuesday that the 74 retirements' fiscal impact, including the amount owed in accrued-time payouts, was still being calculated. Last month, administration officials estimated that 38 senior officer retirements would cost roughly $5.2 million in payouts, but that the money was already budgeted.

Long-term savings are still expected, Bellone aides have said, because departing senior officers all earn much higher salaries than the rookies replacing them.

DiGerolamo noted that members had incentive of retiring while not having to pay a share of their health care. Bellone has said employee health care contributions are on the table as he seeks to close the budget gap.

"As of now, there have been no discussions regarding that," DiGerolamo said. "But we anticipate those discussions in the future, along with the contractual negotiations."

While senior police retirements may ultimately help the county's bottom line, department leaders acknowledge it will affect operations in the short term. The 58 new recruits won't complete training until July, and another class of 50 officers isn't expected to begin until the year's end.

The retiring officers "represent experience and, in certain cases, specialization that takes years to develop," said Chief of Department James Burke. "Ultimately, however, the police department will continue providing the critical services necessary to ensure the safety of Suffolk's citizens."

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