KEEP Chief Ridberg

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia ended his famed “60 Minutes” interview with Lesley Stahl last year saying, “When I first came on the court I thought I would for sure get off as soon as I could which would have been when I turned 65.  Because you know, justices retire at full salary. So there’s no reason not to leave and go off and do something else.  So you know, essentially I’ve been working for free, which probably means I’m too stupid to be on the Supreme Court.”   While Greenwich Police Chief David Ridberg is not working for free, financially he may have been better off retiring from GPD 2 and 1/2 years ago when he “maxed-out” on his potential pension.

Since that time, Chief Ridberg has been the subject of a Townwide salary freeze on top level managers, has not increased his potential pension, and for the better part of his term as chief, has been working as either the only command-level officer, or one of two — essentially doing the jobs formerly done by five command level officers.

Neither Justice Scalia nor Chief Ridberg are “too stupid” for staying on the job beyond the financially most beneficial point in time — they are doing it for a love of the institution they represent.  But Chief Ridberg doesn’t have a luxury Justice Scalia does.  The Chief  has impending college tuition bills.  And so, the Chief is considering other options.  An intelligent, dynamic leader, Chief Ridberg is still quite young, having just turned 48.  Should he leave, he will likely be starting his own business.

Rumors have been circulating in local police and political circles since early summer that Chief Ridberg may be retiring — perhaps as early as November 1.  There are discussions in the halls of government, that the Chief would stay to groom a successor if he were to receive additional compensation.  We have confirmed that discussions surrounding this potential departure are accurate.  It was further substantiated when the local daily yesterday reported the Chief was considering leaving, and that First Selectman Peter Tesei was working to keep him. I applaud the First Selectman for those efforts.  I hope this does not become a partisan issue.

The police chief in Norwalk apparently has an arrangement, called a “DROP” plan (Deferred Retirement Option Plan) which permits him to receive his pension while continuing to work as chief.  Under the plan Norwalk saves because it does not need to hire a new chief with a salary plus fringe benefits about equal to another 50% of the salary.

The current discussion with Chief Ridberg involves not a DROP plan but a salary increase.  While all Town managers would like raises, the Chief’s case is different because of the court-order hampering the GPD, forcing him to do the job of many people.

Keeping the Chief is essential to a smooth transition in GPD.  Our Greenwich needs to keep such a valued, tested-under-fire, leader.  Let’s hope the Town Fathers and Mothers make it happen.

Greenwich Police Chief Ridberg at the opening of the Safety Complex