The Westbrook Police Department’s latest contract, which allows officers to retire earlier, could result in the loss of nearly a third of department’s veteran officers.

Effective this month, officers can retire after 20 years with the department – down from 25 years. As of July 1, 10 officers in a staff of 37 were eligible to retire, and another sergeant will reach 20 years of service in October. The potential change comes soon after the retirement of two sergeants, Allen Tundel and Mike Sanphy, who joined Westbrook police about 40 years ago.

“It’s potentially a big turnover all at once,” said Capt. Tom Roth. “We’re missing a lot of history, but we’re not going to let anything lapse.”

Roth said the change to a 20-year retirement plan makes Westbrook attractive from a recruiting standpoint. He said the department already has nine candidates for positions in the department. Several come with experience in other departments both in Maine and out of state, he said.

Aside from getting “new blood” into the department, Roth said, the change allows other long-time Westbrook officers to be promoted. He said Detective John Desjardins and Officers Steve Hanlon and Anthony Ciampi will be made sergeants within the coming months, and Sgt. Mike Nugent will be promoted to lieutenant.

“It’s a great time to make a lot of positive change,” he said.

According to Roth, of the 11 officers eligible for retirement between now and October, eight have indicated that they will likely leave the department soon. They are Sgts. Shawn McDermott, Steve Lyons and Alan Twombley, and Officers Bob Flood, Mike Brown, Dennis Ryder, Daniel Austin and Peter Youland. He said the two others eligible for retirement – Officers Steve Pulsoni and Tom Roche – have said they aren’t looking to leave yet. Neither is Roth, also eligible to retire.

“I think it’s more positive than negative,” said Twombley, who will look for another job in law enforcement, about the changes.

Twombley said for some, 20 years as a police officer is enough, but he still loves the job and can see himself sticking with it for another two decades. He said it will be hard to leave the department, which is at a high point under Chief Bill Baker, but the retirement pay – 50 percent of the average salary from an officer’s top three years – is too hard to give up.

Ryder and Brown, who are both leaving this month, reiterated Twombley’s sentiment about the state of the department.

“This past year has been great and making it hard to leave, but I feel it is time. The city of Westbrook is very fortunate to have a police chief like William Baker,” said Ryder, who has no specific plans for his retirement, which begins Tuesday, but instead will “wing it.”

“I think, with this chief, the department will be just fine,” said Brown about the effect of the turnover. Brown, who has been serving a special role as a traffic enforcement officer for the past several months, will take a position with the Gorham Police Department at the end of the month, just three days after he retires from Westbrook.

Brown said in his 21 years with the department, he has seen a lot of changes – from the equipment, such as revolvers being replaced with semi-automatic handguns, to the cruisers, which were once without air conditioning and are now equipped with laptops.

According to Ryder, who has also been with the department for 21 years, his job will leave him with both good and bad memories. Getting new faces into the department, Twombley said, should make up for the institutional knowledge that will be lost.

Baker is on vacation this week and unavailable to comment.

Mike Starn, spokesman for the Maine Municipal Association, said all departments should try to have a balance of new blood and experience. He said this kind of large turnover isn’t unusual – and will become more frequent as baby boomers reach retirement age.

“It’s something every organization and every community should be thinking about,” he said. “It’s just something that naturally takes place from time to time.”


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