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Riverhead OKs retirement incentive program for town cops

Riverhead Town agreed to pay $350,000 to settle

Riverhead Town agreed to pay $350,000 to settle a federal lawsuit filed in 1996 by Anthony Wayne Smith, who charged that he was falsely arrested at a bus stop, that two police officers used unreasonable force in his arrest, and that he was remanded for psychiatric testing without cause. (March 22, 2011) Credit: Erin Geismar

The Riverhead Town Board voted last week to approve a retirement incentive program for its town police officers, hoping to save a quarter-million dollars in the first year.

The incentive is open to any full-time Police Benevolent Association member who is vested in the state retirement system. Those approved will receive $1,000 for each year of completed service as a police officer up to $25,000, and will receive free health care for themselves and family for up to five years.

Officers who have individual health care can collect the difference in the costs of the family and individual plans, and can use that money to continue an individual insurance plan past the five years. In addition, any unused time, such as sick or vacation time, will be paid out over three years.

The average base salary for a police officer in Riverhead is $86,790, according to payroll records supplied by the town, and about $95,311 for officers with 20 or more years of service. The last officer hired, in 2010, has a base salary of $56,888.

The town board has the right to decide whether enough officers are taking the incentive to produce a substantial-enough savings for the town, and reserves the right to cancel the incentive if it does not.

A public hearing was held on the matter Aug. 7 at Town Hall.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said the town will maintain staffing levels by hiring to replace officers who take the incentive, noted the savings come from replacing high-paying officers with those coming in as entry level.

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