The agreement struck between Mayor Daley and the police union lowers the early retirement age from 60 to 55. There is concern because the department is already down 500 officers. But Mayor Daley and Police Superintendent Jody Weis are confident more officers will be hired and public safety will not be compromised.
Sgt. John Schultz is a 29-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department. He is 55 years old. Under a new deal, Schulz and hundreds of officers are now old enough to retire with premium health benefits.
"It's attractive, but you have to think long and hard about it," said Sgt. John Schulz, Chicago Police Department.
Eight-hundred-forty-seven officers are eligible for the deal struck between Fraternal Order of Police and the city. Mayor Daley and Supt. Weis call it a win-win. The agreement saves the city up to 23 million by allowing cops between the ages of 55-59 to retire early and continue with the city's health plan.
"In return, those retirees would agree that the city would spread out final compensation payments over a four-year period," said Mayor Daley.
But the concern over early retirement is adding to a manpower shortage. The police department is already down 500 officers and hiring has been very slow.
"That's the big question right now, whether they have enough people that are in the chutes that could potentially be interviewed and hired or whether they're going to have to have an ineligibility to fill the void," said Mark Donahue, Fraternal Order of Police.
Supt. Weis says the department has hundreds of people in the pipeline to fill the void, but he admits, recruitment classes are not scheduled until the city receives federal stimulus money to hire more officers.
"I'm confident we will give the City of Chicago the protection it deserves," Weis said.
And what about the experience factor? Weis says he is not worried about replacing veterans with younger, better trained officers.
"The men and women coming out of the academy today are far better trained than 20 years ago that's is just a fact there is more technology," said Weis.
"I'm different now than I was when I was brand new. With experience comes wisdom," said Schulz.
Sgt. Schulz may be one 55-year-old that will not take the deal. He says still likes his job and has his kids' college tuition to pay for. Other officers ABC7 talked with are ready to jump at the chance of early retirement. The agreement only goes into effect if a minimum of 160 officers take the deal.