Pension Spiking, Early Payouts, Second Careers Make For High-Income Cops
East Lansing’s former chief an example
Former East Lansing Police Chief Jeff Murphy retired in 2017. In his last year on the job, Murphy collected $157,258 in total compensation. This included $24,257 in accrued sick time he was allowed to cash out. Another $28,853 in accrued paid time off also helped spike his lifetime police pension to $91,000 a year.
Immediately after retiring at age 51 with 30 years of police service, Murphy returned to work nearby, earning $93,747 each year working in security at Michigan State University.
Just two years earlier, Murphy was a captain in the East Lansing department with annual compensation of $96,362. The gap between that amount and Murphy’s final gross pay of $157,258 highlights how high-level police — and some other public officials — can use state and municipal retirement systems to their advantage and how lucrative they can be.
According to the city of East Lansing, Murphy was a police captain before being promoted to interim police chief on July 1, 2015. He was made the permanent police chief on Jan. 14, 2016. He would retire just 18 months later.
Murphy received the lump sum payments for unused sick time and leave time in his final year. Under state law, the $28,853 worth of accrued leave time was used in the formula that calculates Murphy’s annual pension payouts, which he was eligible to begin collecting immediately. The leave time boosted his annual pension payout by about $7,900.
It is not unusual for police retirement systems to allow employees with sufficient seniority to stop working and begin collecting a pension as young as age 50 or even sooner. Like Murphy, some retired police boost their income further by launching second careers.
Murphy didn’t respond to an email seeking comment. His current position is director of security for the MSU College of Human Medicine.
East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas said that he didn’t think that Murphy acted to maximize his retirement benefits. Lahanas said in an email that Murphy would have had a bigger pension had he stayed on for two more years as police chief.
“I would also like to note that Mr. Murphy diligently and professionally served the City of East Lansing for over 30 years, safeguarding the community by protecting lives and property,” Lahanas said.
OpenTheBooks.com is a nonprofit that has posted several years’ worth of salary data for nearly every government worker in Michigan and other states. OpenTheBooks' salary information contributed to this story.
Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.