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Connecticut Signs a Police Accountability Bill Affecting Municipalities Across the State

On July 31, 2020, Governor Lamont signed a bill into law officially known as H.B. 6004, “An Act Concerning Police Accountability,” creating sweeping reform across the State.

Portions of this bill will take effect immediately, but the “qualified immunity” part does not take effect until July 1, 2021. While this clause is a main source of controversy, and many speculate this portion of the bill will be revisited when the regular session resumes, it has largely been the reason many human resource departments across the state are receiving an influx of inquiries for retirement or separation options.

We are already starting to see this taking place with the Meriden Police Department, as up to one-third of their 123 officers are exploring retirement because of the bill. Retirement and separation inquiries indicate a potential to speed up, and more quickly widen the gap of an already known “retirement tsunami” among the local municipal/government sector, especially for police. For example, it was noted back in 2018 that the CT State Police have 400 of 970 troopers eligible to retire by 2023.

Regardless of political opinions, changes to qualified immunity provisions will inevitably impact the work environment. This new bill will likely speed up the retirement tsunami, make recruitment and retention for police officers more challenging as well as costly, require POST to deliver new training courses covering Implicit Bias, and any awarded lawsuits will require funding which could affect total workforce counts.”

While there are many new avenues for municipalities to explore how this will affect their community, below are nine HR, benefit, and actuarial considerations your municipality may want to evaluate:

  1. Do Other Post-Employee Benefits (OPEB) assumptions need to be revisited if there are many separations of those under normal retirement age?
  2. What, if any, healthcare budget adjustments need to be made if there is significant movement on the demographic pool as employees move from active to retiree or separation status?
  3. What will the effects be on the funded status of the pension plan if there is a large unanticipated exodus of police officers?
  4. If there are many retirement or departures, what new practices might be implemented to recruit and retain new workforce members?
  5. How will the financial effect be modeled comparing potential salary time reduction versus potential overtime payment impacting the budget?
  6. How will any additional stresses (e.g. pressures of the job, overtime hours, fear of repercussion/lawsuits, etc.) affect police officers’ mental health status?  To this end, should there be a consideration of changes to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or other wellness programs to better support the workforce?
  7. Could this lead to more disability pension applications and how can the resource demands be supported?
  8. What potential impact to the budget might this have (e.g. additional costs of body-worn cameras, potential lawsuit judgements, new training, recruitment fees, wellness initiatives, etc.)?
  9. How realistic is the current short-term and long-term succession plan strategy?

Below are a few suggested action steps to immediately take to get out ahead of the bill:

  1. Revisit all collective bargaining agreements for a clear understanding of separation of employment language and employer requirements;
  2. Connect with your actuaries on OPEB assumptions to see if anything needs to be adjusted;
  3. Review financial assumptions on healthcare budgeting with your benefits consultant and pension funding assumptions with your retirement consultant;
  4. Determine the effectiveness of your existing policies for recruiting and retention, and strategize your workforce planning and succession plan initiatives with your HR consultant;
  5. Encourage the use of EAP programs and managerial training, particularly on recognizing a mental health issue in the workplace; and
  6. Promote stress management techniques through wellness programs and mental health services.

We will continue to monitor legislative updates to this bill and share any insights related to the bill’s requirement for implicit bias training programs, as well as for other unknowns at this time, such as potential frequency for recertification.

For additional insights and guidance in developing compliant business strategies for your community, contact your OneDigital Consultant.