RALEIGH, N.C. — A law enforcements officer in North Carolina must wait 30 years to retire.
Many men and women in uniform say it’s too long and that the law should consider the physical and mental toll the job takes on them. They’d like 25 years.
Wake County Deputy Sheriff Mark Tucker was 11 months from retirement when he was shot and killed while on duty three years ago. If state law had allowed him to retire earlier, his wife, Pat Tucker, says, her husband might still be alive.
“Every minute of every day that you're out there, you're life is on the line,” she says.
“As they get older, they can't do the things they used to do,” says state Sen. John Snow, D-Cherokee County. He plans to sponsor a bill to lower the required service by five years.
“I think they deserve cutting it off at 25,” Snow says. “I think they deserve that opportunity.”
“Honor our police officers by giving them an extra benefit that they deserve by protecting us everyday,” says John Midgette of the Police Benevolent Association.
Some people worry that allowing officers to retire five years earlier will cost the state more money.
“It sounds great on paper, but when you start dissecting it, it's so expensive it loses its charm,” says state Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston County.
It's estimated that the change would cost counties and towns across the state an extra $13 million a year. Municipal leaders are also concerned that giving the early retirement benefit only to police officers would be unfair to other government employees.
“Our local elected officials value the services of their law enforcement officers and all of their employees, but they want to treat their employees fairly,” says Ellis Hankins of the North Carolina League of Municipalities.
Those who support the bill believe the cost of the change has been inflated. They say agencies could save money by hiring younger officers at lower salaries and that agencies would save on health care costs.
Snow’s bill is expected to be introduced in the next few weeks.