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New York City settles U.S. lawsuit over police pensions

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City has settled a lawsuit in which the federal government accused it of improperly reducing retirement benefits for current and former police officers who served in the military after September 11, 2001.

Monday's settlement calls for pension benefits for New York City Police Department ("NYPD") officers to be calculated in accordance with a 1994 federal law that protects the rights of civilian employees who are called to active duty.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan, who announced the settlement, said retired officers will receive past benefits to which they are entitled, and have future payments adjusted to reflect increases from any recalculation.

Active NYPD officers called into service will have future benefits calculated in accord with the 1994 law, Bharara said.

About 1,500 officers have been called into active military service since September 11, 2001, he said.

The lawsuit accused the city of using only base pay to calculate benefits, rather than also using pay that would have been earned had the officers not served in the military.

Bharara said the settlement will help ensure that "the brave men and women who unselfishly serve both their city and their country receive the pensions they have earned, will earn, and to which they are entitled."

The settlement requires approval by U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan in Manhattan.

The Office of the Corporation Counsel, which handles lawsuits for the city, was not immediately available to comment.

The U.S. government filed its lawsuit last August 2, supporting cases brought earlier by three retired NYPD officers.

These officers included David Goodman, a former detective and a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army reserves who served in Afghanistan and Iraq; and Robert Black and Michael Doherty, who were respectively a police sergeant and detective, and served in Afghanistan in the U.S. Coast Guard reserves, court papers show.

The case is Goodman et al v. City of New York et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 10-05236.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Carol Bishopric and Bob Burgdorfer)