CHICAGO (WLS) -- Police officers and firefighters would no longer be forced to retire at age 63 under a proposal that's being considered by a city council committee.
Supporters say it could save the city money and would help with staffing levels.
The proposal is still in the planning stages at this point, but the chairman of the Committee on Police and Fire said there are a lot of good reasons to consider it, despite concerns about the job of police officer and firefighter perhaps being better suited for younger people.
Police officer retention has been a big concern in recent years, with retirements outpacing the city's ability to hire and train new recruits and staffing levels falling far below ideal numbers.
Now, the union representing the rank and file is renewing a two-year-old push to extend the retirement age from 63 to 65.
"You know, it was an opportunity to keep officers on this job a little bit longer. It just made perfect sense, because we knew there were, at least, me personally, three 63-year-olds that retired in 2020, that did not want to retire," said FOP Lodge 7 President John Catanzara Jr.
Police and Fire Committee Chair Chris Taliaferro said there would financial benefits for the struggling police pension system with the department down, he said, about 2,000 positions.
"That means there's 2,000 less officers putting into our pension system. This allows our officers to stay on an additional two years, would allow them to put into the pension for an additional two years," Taliaferro said.
But, there are detractors.
Alderman Nick Sposato, who represents the 38th Ward, is a former firefighter. He said the demands of the job can be tough, even on younger members of the department.
"I personally think it's a bad idea to change it to 65. Sixty-three is even kind of old, a little too old. I think it should probably be 60. But, I'm not going to ask to lower it, but I think it's a bad idea to raise it," Sposato said.
But, others say keeping older police officers and firefighters on duty provides leadership, wisdom and experience that is invaluable for both departments. Alderman Anthony Napolitano served as both a police officer and a firefighter.
"It's an older, wiser way of doing work that works. You see it when you're on the job. You see firefighters that have time on the job. They do things in a different way, and it works out perfectly for him. It's smooth. It's always smooth," Napolitano said.
Plus, as former first deputy police superintendent, Anthony Riccio told ABC7, older officers typically have fewer complaints against them, and thus fewer lawsuits.
The committee did not take up the issue on Monday. It is now expected to be addressed at the next meeting on Dec. 18.