It is common for police services to set mandatory retirement ages at relatively young ages. This paper seeks to discuss the reasons for, and workforce planning implications of, mandatory retirement within the context of the London Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).
In‐depth interviews were carried out with seven senior human resource managers and two trade union representatives in the MPS.
Workforce planning issues shaped managers' perceptions on the need for a mandatory retirement age of 60 for police constables. On the one hand, they were under pressure to increase the number of constables, and the possibility of extending working life was seen as one means to that end. On the other, it was feared that the retention of older police officers would lead to career blockages for younger police constables rising through the ranks.
Owing to labour and skills shortages, MPS managers were looking for ways to encourage older police officers to delay retirement. Innovative practices, such as offering flexible working hours, mentoring roles and pension incentives as alternatives to retirement were identified.
The qualitative data put the discussion of mandatory retirement in police services within the context of workforce planning rather than capability. For police authorities that maintain mandatory retirement policies, raising or abolishing retirement age would change the workforce planning paradigm in which police officers are recruited from, and retire at, young ages.
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