Title 47 of Oklahoma statutes established the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Retirement System, or OLERS, as the pension plan for state police officers and other law enforcement personnel employed by the state. The OLERS program, which is administered by the state’s Law Enforcement Retirement Board, provides members and their survivors with income and medical benefits during retirement or because of disability or death.
Eligible State Law Enforcement Employees
Law enforcement officers and other employees of participating agencies are eligible for participation in the OLERS pension plan. The OLERS pension plan is available to law enforcement officers and criminologists employed by the Oklahoma’s Highway Patrol, Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control and the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission. Patrol Academy cadets employed by the state’s Department of Public Safety are eligible to the OLERS pension plan. Also eligible are park rangers and supervisors employed by the state’s Tourism and Recreation Department, Communications Division employees of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Division and inspectors employed by the Board of Pharmacy.
OLERS Membership Approval
Commissioned law enforcement officers employed with one of the participating Oklahoma state agencies are approved for OLERS participation if they meet the requirements established by the Law Enforcement Retirement Board, including meeting the standards of the physical examination required before employment begins. The Board requirements include good moral character and absence of conditions or habits that prevent the performance of job duties. The Board has the authority to refuse or terminate membership eligibility.
Contributions and Credited Service
An employee who is approved for membership in the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Retirement System pays 8 percent of his salary towards retirement. The state agency that employs the pension plan members pays an additional 11 percent, as of November 2012, of the employee’s salary to his pension account. The employee’s credited service, which is used to calculate the benefit amount, refers to the period of employment when the employee was an OLERS participant employed with one of the participating agencies. Members with vested service, which is granted after 10 years of service, may choose to retire and accept a vested benefit that is less than the full benefit amount.
Generally, plan members are eligible for retirement after 20 service years with a participating agency. The “normal retirement date,” which is the date on which the member is eligible for full pension payments, is the first day of the month following 20 years of credited service or after the member reaches the age of 62 with 10 years of credited service. Age 62 also is normal retirement date for members who transferred to OLERS from the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement, which was the state’s previous pension plan. Members may choose to participate in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP, which allows those with 20-plus service years to save monthly retirement benefits in an interest-bearing account while continuing to work for up to five years.
A member who completes a full 20 years of service receives a monthly retirement benefit based on her “final average salary.” Members who retire because of disability receive partial monthly benefits. The OLERS plan pays higher disability benefits to members whose disabilities resulted from traumatic on-the-job injuries. The plan provides retiree health coverage to members and covered spouses. The plan pays survivor’s benefits, including monthly benefits and health care coverage, and also pays death benefits and member account balances to beneficiaries.
Gail Sessoms, a grant writer and nonprofit consultant, writes about nonprofit, small business and personal finance issues. She volunteers as a court-appointed child advocate, has a background in social services and writes about issues important to families. Sessoms holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies.