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  • Long Beach police, fire forces getting older as academies remain on hold

    http://www.presstelegram.com/news/ci_17809739

    LONG BEACH — As the city's police and firefighter academies have been canceled year after year, the public safety force that protects Long Beach is not only dwindling in size, but also growing older.

    The average age of Long Beach's 863 police officers as of March 25 was just over 39 years old, according to a Press-Telegram analysis of records obtained from the city through a California Public Records Act request. The city's 416 firefighters are slightly younger, on average — just over 38 years old, the analysis found.

    Neither the Police Department nor the Fire Department has had an academy since 2008, and the City Council voted yet again last month to cancel academies that had been planned this year. The move saved an essential $2.5 million, which allowed the city to save many existing public safety positions that it already couldn't afford.

    While police and firefighters can retire at age 50 — though they can't get their maximum pension of 90 percent of their salary until 30 years of service — many work well past typical retirement age, the city records show.

    Among police officers, 79 of them, about 9 percent of the force, are in their 50s. Four are even in their 60s, the oldest a 68-year-old corporal who works in the department's West Patrol Division.

    Among firefighters, 83, or about 20 percent, are in their 50s, including several battalion chiefs and many captains. Nine of the firefighters are 60 or older, and the oldest is a 67-year-old fire captain.

    `A more mature force'

    The data surprised even Police Chief Jim McDonnell, who estimated the average age of his officers at mid-30s, not approaching 40.

    "That's a more mature force from an age perspective than most departments in the state, I would guess," McDonnell said last week.

    A guess is about as good as it gets, because there don't appear to be any California or national organizations or government agencies that track the average age of firefighters and police officers.

    McDonnell and other public safety experts say that the physically taxing jobs of law enforcement and firefighting can become more difficult with age, but McDonnell said he doesn't consider having a slightly older force to be a problem.

    "That's an advantage," McDonnell said, adding that there is a culture of fitness today that didn't used to exist among police. "I'd say police officers today ... are more physically fit than their counterparts were 20 to 25 years ago."

    At the same time, older officers can often handle the stress of the job and the complex situations that they confront better than younger ones, he said.

    "The job is challenging both mentality and physically,"

    McDonnell said. "You need somebody who's physically fit, who's able to handle the rigors of the job, but at the same time somebody with the maturity to emotionally process the things you see every day."

    Top Fire Department officials didn't respond to an interview request last week, but LBFD spokesman Steve Yamamoto said that the department feels that all of its firefighters are qualified regardless of their age.

    Fire's emphasis on fitness

    Fire Capt. Rich Brandt, president of the Long Beach Firefighters Association, said that firefighters also stay fit. The association's wellness program, for example provides classes on physical fitness, nutrition and other health issues.

    "It keeps our firefighters healthy and strong," Brandt said. "They're in great shape."

    Each firefighter has to do his or her part, Brandt noted.

    "On every one of our rigs on every call that we have, if you are on that rig, you are expected to perform," he said.

    Still, keeping public safety workers on staff until their later years can create risks for them, for the public and for a government agency in the form of worker's compensation costs, said Carroll Wills, communications director for the California Professional Firefighters.

    "If you keep firefighters on the job into their early 60s ... they have the opportunity to create substantial additional cost," Wills said. "In addition to, we don't want firefighters to be injured on the job.

    "The older anyone gets, the more difficult it is for them to do certain things, and if we keep firefighters and law enforcement officers on the streets longer, the risk for injury is greater, and an injured firefighter is less able to help the public," he added.

    Police Lt. Steve James, president of the Long Beach Police Officers Association, said that's true, but noted he has learned a few tricks during his almost 19 years on the force.

    "You learn how to do the job smarter as you get a little older, but there's absolutely no doubt that the physical nature of the job gets a little more difficult as you get older," the 43-year-old James said. "You learn as you get older how to try to avoid the things that you are not as capable of doing. You try to be smarter."

    But with so many public safety workers continuing the job into their 50s and even beyond, that raises another question as Long Beach city officials and those in cities throughout the state grapple with how to reform costly pension systems.

    Is the current retirement formula for public safety workers — retirement at age 50 after 30 years of service, earning 3 percent of their salary for each year of service — still necessary?

    "One of the reasons you have a younger retirement age for fighters or health and safety workers (is) they become significantly more susceptible to injuries," Wills said.

    But many public safety officials didn't view the new retirement age as a benefit, instead creating a "brain drain" as officers retired earlier than had been expected, said Mike DiMiceli, assistant executive director of the state's Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.

    "Generally speaking, there's a strong feeling among department executives and managers that it represented a drain in experience in the department, both at the street level and at the management level," DiMiceli said. "That tended to drive out an awful lot of people between the ages probably of 52 and 55."

    McDonnell said that going several years without a police academy — and he didn't sound optimistic that Long Beach will get one next year either — can create an age "bubble" at the department, even if the effects aren't obvious for 25 or 30 years.

    "It means a loss of experience down the road," McDonnell said.

    James said he isn't worried about having police leadership decades out - he's worried about maintaining the size of the force now. He and Brandt noted that the average retirement age for both safety departments is about 54.

    "I think the bigger issue is the shrinking size of the department, not the age," James said. "We're not hiring anybody, so the fact is, every time somebody retires, the department just got smaller."

  • #2
    It would seem reasonable that they start running some sort of applicant pay part academy or something.
    Originally Posted by Law100
    Note to everyone: notice how respect I am

    Comment


    • #3
      hire "paid reserves" until they can transition people into open slots, as "promotional". Alot of depts WANTED "mature",life experienced applicants- face it ,people GET old in this job.I work now where the MAJORITY of the officers are under 30( at least 70%) and have an avg of 6 yrs or less on patrol- they too will get OLD on this job.

      Sounds like someone in LBC mgm't is scared of the health and liability issues of older employees gettin hurt and the cost that will have to be paid out...
      "we're americans ! We don't quit because we're wrong, we just keep doing it wrong UNTIL it turns out Right"...

      Comment


      • #4
        They have no "open slots." They are actually about ten bodies over authorized strength last I heard (less then a month ago) and using the money they set aside for an academy class to pay for those ten bodies. They are facing major budget deficits for the next three years. There is no expectation of a class being held, in fact, they will be lucky not to have to lay off. The only thing saving them right now are retirements and terminations.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by hbliam View Post
          They have no "open slots." They are actually about ten bodies over authorized strength last I heard (less then a month ago) and using the money they set aside for an academy class to pay for those ten bodies. They are facing major budget deficits for the next three years. There is no expectation of a class being held, in fact, they will be lucky not to have to lay off. The only thing saving them right now are retirements and terminations.
          so you think crime will go up if LBPD has to drop to say 800 or less officers? maybe they'll push their security units to take up more low end calls(like the park rangers, marine patrol,etc) and focus on the priority stuff. Sadly, its that way all over- no money to fund needed things. also, is LASD still coming in on the north end of town, like they did in the '90's? don't know where they are gonna' get the deputies unless the patrols are overtime.... BTW, how's the "hills" finances?
          Last edited by DOAcop38; 04-10-2011, 07:16 PM.
          "we're americans ! We don't quit because we're wrong, we just keep doing it wrong UNTIL it turns out Right"...

          Comment


          • #6
            I bet that 68 year old has an ex wife he just hates
            Originally posted by FJDave
            GM, you have just set the bar that much higher for the rest of us in our witty, sarcastic responses. I yield to you! Good job, kind Sir!

            District B13
            "We are not cops nor Feds." yet he still poses as an officer Hmmmm


            Grant us grace, fearlessly, to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression.--WWII memorial

            "I have loved justice and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile."

            Pope Gregory V II

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Garbage Man View Post
              I bet that 68 year old has an ex wife he just hates
              I was thinking the samething.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Garbage Man View Post
                I bet that 68 year old has an ex wife he just hates
                indeed. They will probably have to carry him out.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I would say he has more than one ex wife!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The average age of Long Beach's 863 police officers as of March 25 was just over 39 years old, according to a Press-Telegram analysis of records obtained from the city through a California Public Records Act request. The city's 416 firefighters are slightly younger, on average — just over 38 years old, the analysis found.

                    IS the writer inferring that 39 is OLD? 39 is GOOD, it's not OLD.
                    HEY YOU KIDS--- GET OFF MY GRASS!!
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                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by swat_op506 View Post
                      The average age of Long Beach's 863 police officers as of March 25 was just over 39 years old, according to a Press-Telegram analysis of records obtained from the city through a California Public Records Act request. The city's 416 firefighters are slightly younger, on average — just over 38 years old, the analysis found.

                      IS the writer inferring that 39 is OLD? 39 is GOOD, it's not OLD.
                      HEY YOU KIDS--- GET OFF MY GRASS!!
                      I WISH I was "39" again ( stuff is hurting these days...... uughh)
                      ..actually had a new officer say to me that her DAD was YOUNGER than I am.....
                      "we're americans ! We don't quit because we're wrong, we just keep doing it wrong UNTIL it turns out Right"...

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I liked 42, then I could go up to a new officer and say "When I was your age, you were born."

                        40 is also a magic # thats when you turn into a leper. You scratch an itch them see that the scratch marks are still there hours later. You wake up with a sore neck and realize, you just hurt yourself sleeping.

                        Sounds to me like overall the LB is going from "Officer in foot pursuit!" to "Subject splitting from me!"
                        Originally posted by FJDave
                        GM, you have just set the bar that much higher for the rest of us in our witty, sarcastic responses. I yield to you! Good job, kind Sir!

                        District B13
                        "We are not cops nor Feds." yet he still poses as an officer Hmmmm


                        Grant us grace, fearlessly, to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression.--WWII memorial

                        "I have loved justice and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile."

                        Pope Gregory V II

                        Comment

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