North Carolina bill in memory of fallen Winston-Salem officer could give officers the option to retire early

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — State lawmakers are considering an early retirement program for law enforcement officers.

The Sergeant Mickey Hutchens Act is named after a Winston-Salem police officer who died in the line of duty in 2009. Sergeant Hutchens was just two years shy of retirement when he was killed.

The bill allows officers to purchase at full cost up to four years’ creditable service state employees’ retirement system if they hold an advanced law enforcement or corrections certificate. It would give officers the opportunity to retire with 26 years of service instead of 30.

Supporters of the bill say it offers a competitive advantage at a time when it’s hard to recruit and retain.

“We are seeing a big turnover rate around 5 to 7 years. Now if we can give these guys some incentive it might be good for retaining officers down the line,” said Cody St. Pierre, the president of the Greensboro Police Officers Association.

The bill gives officers the chance to invest more in their retirement, ultimately benefiting younger officers who have more time to save.

“The longer you wait to buy in, the more expensive it is. Essentially what you are doing is putting money in towards buying the retirement payment off. If you wait until 20 years that’s more lump sum and harder to pay for,” said Sebastion King, a government liaison for the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association.

Cost is a big reason why state and local police associations don’t foresee a mass exodus.

“I think a lot of guys are taking about how they are going to, but once they crunch the numbers and how it might be for some of them, I think we won’t see as many as we are anticipating,” said Pierre.

The bill still needs to clear the Senate. If the bill is signed into law, it would go into effect on July 1.

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