ACT Policing could be set for a brain drain in the next two years, with nearly half of the experienced officers still eligible for generous benefits under an old superannuation scheme set to reach a potential retirement age.
The affected police officers have at least 29 years on the job, given the scheme closed to new members in 1990, and face a choice between continuing their careers or retiring to preserve their entitlements.
The situation has prompted the police union to raise fears about the potential impact on experience levels in the ACT ranks.
An option unique to public servants who are members of the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme means there is generally a financial incentive to resign at the age of 54 years and 11 months.
Under the so-called 54/11 option, resigning in the month before turning 55 allows members of the scheme to preserve superannuation benefits and then claim a deferred benefit once they turn 55.
The federal government closed this scheme to new members in 1990 because its cost would have been too much for the country to bear had it continued. The Australian Financial Review has estimated that in 2014, the minimum employer superannuation contribution to public servants still covered by the scheme was 17.4 per cent, while the rest of the workforce received only 9.5 per cent.
An ACT Policing spokesman said there were 23 sworn members who belonged to the scheme and were below the age of 55.
Of those, 11 were aged 53 or 54, making them eligible for the 54/11 option in the next two years.
"The ranks of the 23 [scheme] members range from constable to senior executive members," the spokesman said.
"ACT Policing has very low numbers of members who remain in the [Commonwealth] Superannuation Scheme and any retirements of these members will be managed in the normal way.
"It is important to note that a number of employees who have previously been eligible to retire at 54/11 have chosen not to and have continued their careers in ACT Policing. This trend is expected to continue with remaining [scheme] members."
While some of the affected officers approaching the age of 55 are ranked as low as constable, it is understood the majority hold the rank of sergeant or above.
Australian Federal Police Association president Angela Smith said ACT Policing experience levels would be "hit hard" by the 54/11 option.
"I certainly don't begrudge anyone for retiring," Ms Smith said.
"They all deserve it. They have worked diligently and very hard, but a few I know have recently retired due to the excellent financial outcomes, but ultimately they weren't ready to retire from the [Australian Federal Police] or ACT Policing as they still enjoyed coming to working, being a police officer and helping the community.
"Someone that wants to work, enjoys working in the policing environment and is a great operator and mentor for a junior workforce, but for positive financial reasons has to walk away from the organisation and a job they love is quite sad.
"The loss of that experience, knowledge, and patrol or investigation craft is going to impact on ACT Policing."
In last month's ACT budget, the territory government allocated funding to hire 69 new police staff over four years.
An ACT Policing spokesman said the recruitment would be staged, with "a small number" of the positions to be filled in 2019-20.
"The breakup between sworn and professional staff is yet to be finally determined; however, the vast majority will be in operational roles," he said.
"There will be particular specialist skills to be recruited which do not require sworn police powers, such as operational intelligence officers."