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38% of Montgomery Co. officers eligible for retirement or already planning to leave agency

A Montgomery County Police officer is pictured exiting their cruiser during a traffic stop. (Photo: 7News)
A Montgomery County Police officer is pictured exiting their cruiser during a traffic stop. (Photo: 7News)
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The majority of Montgomery County Police officers become eligible to retire and begin collecting their baseline pension after 25 years of service.

That perk has resulted in a growing number of cops contemplating, or actually quitting the department, due in part, to perceived negative police sentiment from county leaders and members of the community.

Montgomery County's current FY22 budget was projected to pay up to 1,283 sworn officers. However, the department presently has 1,212 cops on the force, 71 fewer than budgeted for.

Police department records show that in 2020 and 2021, 65 cadets graduated and become sworn officers. Compare that with 114 graduates in 2017 and 2018, and 203 graduates in 2013 and 2014.

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Records further show that as of January of this year, 338 officers were eligible for early or normal retirement. An additional 125 officers were enrolled in the department's Discontinued Retirement Service Program (DRSP). That's 38 percent of all sworn officers presently on the force.

Law enforcement sources say that simply stated, Montgomery County is hemorrhaging officers to resignations and retirements faster than it can recruit and train cadets at the academy.

"I don't know the exact number but I know it's a lot," Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) said when asked about the issue during his weekly Wednesday Zoom press conference.

Elrich argued that a just-approved pay increase for officers — among many other county government employees — will hopefully slow attrition.

"We negotiated contracts that we thought, and I think the union felt, would address the pay issues and take us from the bottom of the rankings up to a decent place towards the top of the rankings," Elrich remarked. "That's probably the most important thing that we can do... If people have better opportunities here, they're going to stay here."

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Elrich added that he championed officer pay raises back in 2020, but that the county council did not support the idea because of budgetary concerns amid the COVID-19 global pandemic.

"This is the second time I've tried doing this. We recognized this problem two years ago when we negotiated the contract that addressed the lack of adequate pay and that contract didn't get approved. This contract's gotten approved."


Officers who are at least 46 years of age and have at least 25 years of service are allowed to enroll in DRSP for up to three years. Once enrolled in the program, the county begins to deposit monthly retirement pension payments in an officer's Fidelity investment account while the officer continues to work and collect their normal paycheck. The win-win, county officials explain, is that the officer gains tens of thousands in added compensation while the county can better forecast law enforcement staffing levels.

"We've talked about potentially making that DRSP period a little bit longer, which would incentivize officers to stay on for a couple more years, particularly the most senior officers who have the most ability to train other officers," said Earl Stoddard who serves as one of the county's assistant chief administrative officers. "We can't just do that unilaterally, that's something that has to be negotiated with the union, but that's something the county executive has expressed some interest in exploring."

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Stoddard went on to explain the current idea is to extend DRSP from a maximum of three to five years in length. If approved, officers enrolled in DRSP could very conceivably collect a six-figure pension fund before formally retiring while the county drops into officer recruitment and training overdrive.

Still, law enforcement sources claim officer morale is at an all-time low. They contend take-home pay is not the primary culprit, but rather routine criticism from Elrich and members of the county council. Elrich, who is up for re-election this year, argued this week that the police community has endured a lot of unfair scrutiny as of late.

"Everybody gets blamed for what one person does. You know, we don't celebrate the good things that happen and anything bad gets generalized across everyone, and hopefully, we move beyond that and develop the ability to see those that do well and do right and deal with the people that don't do well and don't do right," Elrich opined.
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7News asked Montgomery County Police how many officers have retired each year, dating back to 2010. The department responded saying that data was not readily available.

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