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AAC Blue


COVER STORY Continued From Page 29 <<<


• Tat CLEST conduct a study on the necessity for of- ficers to be periodically re-evaluated throughout their service at years three, seven, and 10.


• Tat state, local, and county governing bodies reap- propriate funding to provide healthcare coverage for full-time law enforcement officers and their dependents who participate in an annual wellness assessment. An- nual wellness assessments should not be required for dependents who are minors.


• Te Arkansas Department of Public Safety, in conjunc- tion with existing programs, should develop and admin- ister a robust, statewide wellness and resiliency program available to the law enforcement community, including officers, jailers, dispatchers, coroners, and civilian staff.


• Te proposal of legislation and funding to support a loan forgiveness program for law enforcement officers similar to a program recently enacted in Texas. Te al- ternative to this recommendation is that the Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program be amended to allow for forgiveness eligibility following 12 months instead of 120 months of qualifying payments for law enforcement officers.


• Te proposal of legislation and funding to allow for a full-time, certified law enforcement officer to attend a state-supported institution of higher education tuition free, similar to the legislation for soldiers or airmen in the Arkansas National Guard.


• Te proposal of legislation that the first 50 percent of benefits received by a law enforcement officer of this state from an individual retirement account or the first 50 percent of retirement benefits received by a law en- forcement officer of this state from public or private employment-related retirement systems, plans, or pro- grams, regardless of the method of funding for these systems, plans, or programs, be exempt from the state income tax, with no age requirement.


• Tat actuary studies be conducted on all applicable re- tirement systems to determine the cost and feasibility to reduce actual service for retirement of law enforce- ment officers to no more than 25 years with at least a 3 percent multiplier. Specifically, actuarial studies should include separating law enforcement officers from civil- ian employees in the Arkansas Public Employees Retire- ment System (APERS).


• Tat actuarial studies be conducted on all applicable re- tirement systems to determine the cost and feasibility of allowing law enforcement officers who medically retire due to work-related injuries to receive equivalent retire- ment benefits as if the law enforcement officer reached


30 full retirement eligibility.


• Tat law enforcement agencies provide long-term dis- ability insurance for all law enforcement officers.


Some of these recommendations entered the 2021 Legisla-


tive Session as Senate Bills 234 and 304, filed by Sen. Rap- ert, and HB 1274, filed by Rep. Stu Smith. SB234 represents Retirement Enhancement for State Police. Currently, law en- forcement officers are allowed to retire after 30 years of service. Tis bill seeks to reduce the number of years to 25, which would call for a 3 percent contribution from a member’s salary. Ultimately, the bill was amended to reduce the number of


years of service from 30 to 28, rather than the orginally pro- posed 25 years of service, for State Police. Of that change, Rapert said, “I had hoped to have our state join every single state that surrounds us by lowering to 25 years the years of service required for any law enforcement of- ficer to retire. I look forward to working with my legislative colleagues and state leaders going forward to make this goal become a reality. I am extremely happy that we found consen- sus to allow the Arkansas State Police retire with 28 years of service, which puts them in parity with other law enforcement officers in our state.” SB304 represents the Income Tax Credit for Full-Time Law


Enforcement Officers, which would create a tax exemption or tax credit for law enforcement officers. Te aim of this bill is to counteract poor starting salaries and to provide a tax credit in- centive for all state, local, and federal officers. HB 1274 would amend the current definition of employees under APERS to add “those persons participating in a local policemen’s pension and relief fund.” It also would amend Ark. Code § 24-4-524 to allow volunteer officers to receive reciprocal service credit from APERS earned, by the volunteer officer either under the Arkansas Local Police and Fire Retirement System or a local pensions and relief fund.


Back the Blue Movement Many of the bills previously discussed and inspired by the


Task Force recommendations have become part of what is being called the “Back the Blue” Movement, spearheaded by Sen. Rapert. “Every single day in our state brave law enforcement offi- cers serving our communities put on their badges and holster their sidearms to enforce the laws of our state and protect the public from criminals that may seek to harm them,” Rap- ert said. “I am proud to have been a part of the legislative leadership that formed the Back the Blue Caucus to support legislation that supports these courageous men and women who take an oath to protect and serve the people of our state.


COUNTY LINES, WINTER 2021


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