A police officer may retire whenever he likes. Whether or not he receives any significant benefit from his state's police retirement fund depends on his years of active service with the department and if he made proper contributions to his pension plan during his working career. An officer may also cash in his remaining vacation and sick leave when he retires, which can boost his overall retirement benefit.
Maximum Entry Age
The maximum age for entry into the police retirement system varies by state but is usually 35 years old. A candidate with military service or previous civil service employment may be eligible to deduct those years of service for determining age eligibility for the retirement system. Age reduction may also take place for a candidate who has previous experience working for a port authority police force, railroad police force or university police department.
Full Retirement Age
A police officer usually reaches full retirement age after accumulating 25 years of continuous service with a given police department. The retirement benefit pension-based system is calculated by averaging the officer's 12 highest consecutive quarters of earnings. The average of these quarterly earnings determines the officer's yearly benefit and retirement. He may then select from a number of payment options to determine how his yearly benefit is distributed and how much may be left to a surviving spouse in the event of the retired police officer's death.
Partial Retirement Benefits
A police officer may elect to receive a smaller retirement benefit at age 55 as long as he has at least five years of accumulated service credit. An officer is given one month of service credit for every month she makes a full pension contribution. The retirement benefit extended to the officer is smaller than those who reach the full 25 years of service credit because the officer has not had as much time to accumulate a high average rate of pay.
Leaving Before Retirement
If an officer chooses to leave his job before reaching full retirement age or accumulating enough years of service, he has two options: he may leave his contributions to the retirement fund in the police retirement system to accrue interest or he may withdraw his contributions and accumulated interest. The officer is required to complete a formal refund request to receive his contributions to the retirement fund. There is also usually a waiting period before any funds can be withdrawn from the given state's retirement system.