NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- A proposed reorganization of the New Rochelle Police Department would largely invert the standing of Police Lieutenants on the current Captain's Eligibility List maintained by the New Rochelle Municipal Civil Service by eliminating test scores entirely as a factor in making promotions and making age the primary determining factor due to the replacement of a "20 year police pension" with a "55 year old civilian pension."
The biggest beneficiaries of the plan, in this regard, would be two of the lowest scoring Lieutenants on the New York State Police Captains Exam and one Lieutenant not on the current eligibility list.
Under the proposed reorganization by New Rochelle Police Commissioner Patrick J. Carroll, the position of Police Captain would be eliminated and replaced by a civilian position of Assistant Police Commissioner. The memo uses the term "Deputy Police Commissioner" which was changed by the time the job specification was first made public at the October 17th, 2012 meeting of the New Rochelle Civil Service Commission.
Carroll described the plan in a memo to City Manager Charles B. Strome dated August 20, 2012, recently obtained by Talk of the Sound. The memo, entitled "Reorganization of the Police Command Structure" centers on abolishing the position of Police Captain so that Commanders are in civilian positions, appointed by the Police Commissioner, serving at the pleasure of the Police Commissioner without the "restraint" of Civil Service rules and "unencumbered by union affiliation". Police Captains are currently part of the Superior Officers Association, the bargaining unit that represents Sergeants, Lieutenants and Captains.
In the memo, Carroll states that he is proposing a reorganization of the Police Department to "facilitate better
management at the divisional command level, reduce the budget and allow for real executive discretion in appointing division commanders." He goes on to envision further reorganization of the hierarchy that would result in salary savings and clearer chain of responsibility without specifying how that would be accomplished.
Carroll concludes the memo by citing benefits of the reorganization plan as
• 6% savings in pension fund costs
• Removes commanders from the Superior Officers Association
• Allows management to seek the best qualified for appointment
• Provides a more efficient organizational structure with clearer lines of responsibility and accountability
The memo does not provide details on how pension savings would be achieved or how lines of responsibility would change and become more clear and accountable.
Whatever the benefits of the Reorganization Plan -- and they appear primarily to be to increase the pensions of the three current Police Captains and allow the Police Commissioner to circumvent civil service rules -- analysis by Talk of the Sound shows that the proposed changes would have a major impact on actual and effective eligibility for the position of Assistant Police Commissioner.
With Commanders becoming civilians, current Police Captains would move into New York State's civilian pension program. Police pensions begin after 20 years so most police officers become eligible for their pension around the age of 40 years old. Civilian pensions begin at 55 years old.
There are 10 Lieutenants in the New Rochelle Police Department, 9 of which are on the eligibility list. The one remaining Lieutenant, Christopher Hearle either did not take the civil service exam for Police Captain or scored below a 70 on the exam, but in either case he is not on the New Rochelle Police Captain's Eligibility List maintained by the New Rochelle Civil Service Commission. Under the reorganization plan, Hearle could become Assistant Police Commissioner even though is not on the eligibility list.
The new job specification of Assistant Police Commissioner requires the candidate be a Lieutenant with the New Rochelle Police Department for a minimum of 6 months.
Standing/Name: Score, Seniority Credit, Final Score
01 Collins J. Coyne: 97 + 2.6 = 99.6
02 Cosmo Costa: 92 + 4 = 96.0
03 George E. Rosenberg: 91 + 4 = 95.0
04 David M. Lonergan: 91 + 3.7 = 94.7
05 William J O'Dell: 90 + 36 = 93.6
06 Gary H. Robinson: 86 + 3.2 = 89.2
07 William J. Childs: 83 + 4 = 87.0
08 William D Schulman: 78 + 4 = 82.0
09 George R. Marshall: 75 + 4 = 79.0
NA Christopher Hearle: Not on list.
The Police Commissioner and newly created Assistant Police Commissioners would include 4 New Rochelle Police Department employees who are older than 55.
Commanders List by Age/Group
Captain Joseph Schaller @62
Captain Kevin Kealy @61
Captain Robert Gazzola @50
Deputy Commissioner Anthony Murphy @61
Police Commissioner Patrick Carroll @70
Two Lieutenants are also older than 55.
The remaining Lieutenants can be grouped into two categories -- about 50 years old and about 40 years old. For these officers the decision whether to accept a promotion to Assistant Police Commissioner would revolved around their willingness to go "at risk" with their pension for anywhere from 5 to 15 years.
Officers who are about 50 would face a difficult choice and some might be unwilling to risk taking a new position with no job protection and potentially having to wait to get their pension up to about 5 years. For officers who are about 40 they would have to go at risk for their pensions for up to 15 years. Few if any would be willing to take such a risk.
So, for all practical purposes, the older the Lieutenant the more likely to accept a promotion to Assistant Police Commissioner with the converse being true; the younger the Lieutenant they less likely to accept a promotion to Assistant Police Commissioner. The effect would be to replace test scores with ages as the driving factor in promotion to Assistant Police Commissioner.
Lieutenants List by Age/Group
09 George R. Marshall 55+
07 William J. Childs 55+
NA Christopher Hearle @50
02 Cosmo Costa @50
08 William D Schulman @50
01 Collins J. Coyne @40
03 George E. Rosenberg @40
04 David M. Lonergan @40
05 William J O'Dell @40
06 Gary H. Robinson @40
Officers who accept civilian positions would still have a pension but be considered "at risk" because they would not be able to draw their pension until they were 55. If, for any reason, they were separated from the position in the years prior to age 55 they would have no pension income until they reach 55. Further, once they become civilians they no longer have civil service protections and cannot accept a reduced rank back to Lieutenant. If they left the position of Assistant Police Commissioner they would be out of the department without the ability to draw on their pension for as many as 15 years.
Not only would this be an unacceptable risk for younger Lieutenants but expose department Commanders to political pressure and otherwise reduce their overall independence. The Assistant Police Commissioners would serve solely at the pleasure of the Police Commissioner, who in turn, serves at the pleasure of the City Manager, who in turn, serves at the pleasure of the City Council. Keeping Commander positions within the Civil Service affords them a level of protection from the vagaries of City Council politics.
Under Carroll's proposed reorganization plan, Captain Schaller and Captain Kealy would not be impacted by the change to their pension because they are older than 55. Murphy would not be impacted because is already in the civilian pension program.
Carroll is in the New York City police pension program. Both are over age 55.
The standing of Lieutenants eligible for the position would be heavily influenced by this consideration. A 40 year old officer would be highly unlikely to give up their civil service protection and their union representation and take the risk of having to wait for up to 15 years to draw their first pension check.
Reordering of the Lieutenants on the Captain's list based on age creates, effectively, a new list which places Marshall and Childs at the top of the list -- they could accept the new position with no impact on their ability to access their pension. Hearle would now be near the top of a list whereas today he has no standing at all. Cosmo Costa would be somewhat impacted by the change but would lose the benefit of being among the top three officers on the current Captain's list. Under civil service rules, an appointing officer must select a candidate from among the top 3 names on the approved eligibility list.
Five of the 6 top Lieutenants on the current list would drop to the bottom and be effectively ineligible for the position creating the very real risk that the "best and the brightest" in the department, seeing little prospect of advancement, would resign and move elsewhere leaving the department with a significantly aging senior leadership.
The proposed reorganization of the police department has been a source of confusion at City Hall and within the department.
Carroll says in his memo that selecting candidates for command positions based on the current civil service position is "not a practical or sound method of choosing individuals to manage at an executive level within the Department and it can place the Commissioner in a position where a promotion is forced rather than chosen."
The system he derides produced his current senior leadership -- Murphy, Schaller, Kealy, Gazzola. He personally promoted Murphy and Gazzola to their current positions. He intends to promote Schaller, Kealy, and Gazzola to Assistant Police Commissioner. Further, all Lieutenants on the Captain's Eligibility list were promoted to that position by Police Commissioner Carroll.
Carroll states that the new position will "assume a higher level of responsibility, especially involving matters of labor and employment". Yet, the jobs specs are largely, if not entirely, copied and pasted from the existing job spec for Police Captain. For example, under "TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT USED", the job specifications for Assistant Police Commissioner list "pager", a technology that went out of use over 20 years ago.
In a recent interview, the Police Commissioner expressed his concern with the reduction in the number of sworn officers fit for duty, a figure which he said stood at 142 in January, 2013. Under the Reorganization Plan, that figure would drop to 139 as Gazzolla, Kealy and Schaller turn in their badge.
Carroll says the Assistant Police Commissioners would be assigned weekend patrol coverage -- civilians would be put out on patrol on weekends while the number of sworn officers in the department would be further reduced. As civilians, Gazzola, Kealy and Schaller could carry a gun but would have no more arrest power than Ward Henderson. The plan reduces the number of sworn police officers in the department.
Carroll says that by removing the captains from the Superior Officers Association they would "be free of ambivalence" in conducting hearings involving members of the their own bargaining unit. The SOA is currently compromised of Sergeants, Lieutenants and Captains who are, one would hope, not often subject to disciplinary hearings. If a disciplinary hearing for an SOA member is as rare an event as one might hope and there is some question about the ability of Gazzolla, Kealy and Schaller to be impartial, Murphy or Carroll could conduct the hearing or, as is often done, a hearing could be conducted by a senior officer from another law enforcement agency.
Carroll says the Assistant Police Commissioners will deal with matters of litigation and disability cases, responsibilities typically reserved for a municipal lawyer. Captain Joseph Schaller is a lawyer and is licensed to do this sort of work but none of the Captains or Lieutenants are lawyers. What happens when Schaller leaves the department? If Carroll is worried about "ambivalence" should he not be worried of a potential conflict of interest with Schaller working on cases with officers he has served with for many years?
Carroll says the reorganization plan will create pension savings for the Commander positions but salary increases down the road will increase pension costs for these positions. Further, if Schaller and Kealy retire at 62 there will be six promotions -- a Lieutenant will be promoted to Captain, a Sergeant will be promoted to Lieutenant and a police officer will be promoted to Sergeant. Two new officers will be hired, and they will be hired at the lower cost Tier 6 pension level, replacing two officers in the more expensive Tier 2 pension level.
Meanwhile the process of creating the new position continues.
City Manager Strome tells Talk of the Sound the issue is now before the Public Employee Relations Board to determine if the positions can be classified as management and confidential. Strome previously indicated the job specifications must be approved by the New York State Civil Service Commission, although no such application has been made by the City of New Rochelle, and the New York State pension system.
Under the New Rochelle City Charter, the matter will eventually become before City Council which has been largely left in the dark with regard to the departmental reorganization.
Section 59 of the New Rochelle City Charter states that the Police Department "shall as to their membership and organization remain as now constituted until the same shall be changed by the Council."
There has been some confusion on the issue of police retirement age. Police Captain Joseph Schaller turned 62 over the summer. Police Captain Kealy will soon turn 62.
Asked about this in December, Strome said that the mandatory retirement age for police officers was never a factor in the proposed reorganization of the police department.
"It is quite complicated," said Strome who explained that while New Rochelle Police Captains are in a State retirement plan that does require retirement at 62, the State would automatically move them into another plan that requires retirement at 65, if they remained on the job past 62.
While accurate, the State pension system does not determine police retirement age at the local level.
Several years ago, New York State gave municipalities the option to increase the police retirement age to 65 and adjusted the State pension plan accordingly.
The City of New Rochelle did not change its mandatory retirement age for police officers.
§ 58-4 1B of the New Rochelle City Code states:
Each member of the police force shall retire upon reaching his 62nd birthday.
The retirement age for New Rochelle police officers remains age 62.
UPDATE: Talk of the Sound received the following statement from New Rochelle Police Superior Officers Association President Sgt. Neil K. Reynolds,
"The New Rochelle Police Superior Officers Association represents all Sergeants, Lieutenants and Captains employed in the Police Department of the City of New Rochelle. All of these competitive positions are governed under New York State Civil Service law and this should continue."