The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us)



 

STATE OF MICHIGAN

MIKE COX, ATTORNEY GENERAL

FIREARMS:

LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS:

Meaning of retired police or law enforcement officer in the Concealed Pistol Licensing Act

The terms "retired police officer" or "retired law enforcement officer," as used in the Concealed Pistol Licensing Act, MCL 28.421 et seq, mean a certified police or law enforcement officer who retired in good standing from his or her employment as a police or law enforcement officer and who is receiving a retirement benefit.

Opinion No. 7182

October 19, 2005

Honorable Herb Kehrl
State Representative
The Capitol
Lansing, MI 48909

You have asked several questions concerning the meaning of the terms "retired police officer" or "retired law enforcement officer" as used in the Michigan Concealed Pistol Licensing Act (CPLA), 2000 PA 381, MCL 28.421 et seq.

Section 5b(7)(c) of the CPLA, MCL 28.425b(7)(c), provides that, in order to become licensed to carry a concealed pistol, the applicant must have successfully completed a firearms course that satisfies the basic requirements of section 5j, MCL 28.425j, which includes such subjects as the safe handling of a pistol, fundamentals of pistol shooting, legal issues relating to firearms, avoiding confrontation, as well as training and practice on a firing range. Section 5l(2), MCL 28.425l(2), exempts from the educational requirements of section 5b(7)(c) an applicant "who is a retired police officer or retired law enforcement officer." The CPLA also prohibits licensees from carrying a concealed pistol in certain locations, such as schools, hospitals, and day care centers. MCL 28.425o. However, that prohibition does not apply to a licensee who is a "retired police officer or retired law enforcement officer." MCL 28.425o(4)(a).

You ask whether the term "retired police officer" or "retired law enforcement officer" includes an officer who worked part time and is not eligible for retirement benefits. Your other questions present additional factual variations on the first, including whether an officer would be deemed "retired" under the CPLA if the officer was receiving less that full benefits, lacks a retirement card, or retired for medical reasons and was collecting workers compensation benefits. By way of background, you advise that a prosecutor who serves as the chairperson of a county concealed weapon licensing board has taken the position that a retired police or law enforcement officer must be receiving retirement benefits in order to be eligible for the exemptions found in the CPLA.

The terms "retired police officer" and "retired law enforcement officer" are defined in section 1(h) of the CPLA, MCL 28.421(h):

"Retired police officer" or "retired law enforcement officer" means an individual who was a certified police officer or certified law enforcement officer as those terms are defined under section 2(k) of the commission on law enforcement standards act, 1965 PA 203, MCL 28.602,[1] and retired in good standing from his or her employment as a police officer or law enforcement officer.

The Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards Act (MCOLES Act), MCL 28.601 et seq, does not expressly define the terms "certified police officer" or "certified law enforcement officer." Section 2(l) of that act, however, does define "police officer" or "law enforcement officer":

"Police officer" or "law enforcement officer" means, unless the context requires otherwise, any of the following:

(i) A regularly employed member of a law enforcement agency authorized and established pursuant to law, including common law, who is responsible for the prevention and detection of crime and the enforcement of the general criminal laws of this state. Police officer or law enforcement officer does not include a person serving solely because he or she occupies any other office or position.

(ii) A law enforcement officer of a Michigan Indian tribal police force, subject to the limitations set forth in section 9(3).

(iii) The sergeant at arms or any assistant sergeant at arms of either house of the legislature who is commissioned as a police officer by that respective house of the legislature as provided by the legislative sergeant at arms police powers act, 2001 PA 185, MCL 4.381 to 4.382.

(iv) A law enforcement officer of a multicounty metropolitan district, subject to the limitations of section 9(7).

(v) A county prosecuting attorney's investigator sworn and fully empowered by the sheriff of that county.

(vi) Until December 31, 2007, a law enforcement officer of a school district in this state that has a membership of at least 20,000 pupils and that includes in its territory a city with a population of at least 180,000 as of the most recent federal decennial census. [MCL 28.602(l).]

The MCOLES Act further defines "certification" in section 2(b), MCL 28.602(b):

"Certification" means either of the following:

(i) A determination by the commission that a person meets the law enforcement officer minimum standards to be employed as a commission certified law enforcement officer and that the person is authorized under this act to be employed as a law enforcement officer.

(ii) A determination by the commission that a person was employed as a law enforcement officer before January 1, 1977 and that the person is authorized under this act to be employed as a law enforcement officer.

The primary rule of statutory construction is to discern and effectuate the intent of the Legislature. Sun Valley Foods Co v Ward, 460 Mich 230; 236; 596 NW2d 119 (1999). Reading the relevant definitions together, it is reasonable to conclude that, for the purposes of the CPLA, the Legislature intended "certified police or law enforcement officer" to mean a person who meets the definition of a police or law enforcement officer in the MCOLES Act and who has met the qualifications for certification under that act.2

The question then turns to whether an officer who meets these requirements is "retired." Again, the primary goal of statutory construction is to ascertain and give effect to legislative intent. People v Stanaway, 446 Mich 643, 658; 521 NW2d 557 (1994). The word "retired" is not defined in either the CPLA or the MCOLES Act. The rules of statutory construction also require that every word or phrase of a statute be given its commonly accepted meaning. Western Michigan Univ Bd of Control v Michigan, 455 Mich 531, 539; 565 NW2d 828 (1997); MCL 8.3a. In the absence of a statutory definition, it is proper to resort to dictionary definitions. State ex rel Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney v Levenburg, 406 Mich 455, 465; 280 NW2d 810 (1979). Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged Edition (1964), defines "retired" as having "withdrawn from active duty or business" while "retire" is defined as "to withdraw from office, public station, business, occupation, or active duty." A person who is retired is a "retiree," which is synonymous with "retirant." Id. Black's Law Dictionary (7th ed) defines "retirement" as the "voluntary termination of one's own employment or career, [especially] upon reaching a certain age."

Applying these definitions alone, however, does not answer the question of whether an officer must be receiving retirement benefits in order to be deemed "retired" for the purposes of the CPLA. A literal application of the dictionary definition could lead to the conclusion that any certified officer who is separated from his or her position as a police or law enforcement officer, regardless of whether the officer meets the age and longevity requirement needed to qualify for retirement benefits, would qualify as "retired." By requiring that the officer be "retired," however, rather than merely a "former" officer, it is apparent that the Legislature contemplated more than that the officer has received basic training, been employed for the minimum period of time to become certified, and then left that position.

It is helpful in determining legislative intent to examine other statutes that relate to the same subject or share a common purpose. Such statutes are in pari materia, and may be read together as one law, even if they contain no reference to one another and were enacted on different dates. Palmer v State Land Office Bd, 304 Mich 628, 636; 8 NW2d 664 (1943). The purpose of the in pari materia rule is to give effect to the legislative purpose as found in harmonious statutes. Jennings v Southwood, 446 Mich 125, 136-137; 521 NW2d 230 (1994). In addition, the Legislature is deemed to be aware of the meaning given to the words it uses, Anzaldua v Band, 457 Mich 530, 543; 578 NW2d 306 (1998), and of the existence of the law in effect at the time of its enactments. Malcolm v East Detroit, 437 Mich 132, 139; 468 NW2d 479 (1991).

The term "retired" person or "retirant" has a particular meaning under various pension and employment statutes that are, therefore, relevant in determining the meaning of the terms "retired police officer" and "retired law enforcement officer" under the CPLA. For retirement purposes, a "retirant" is defined in section 2(c) of the Public Employee Retirement Benefits Forfeiture Act, 1994 PA 350, MCL 38.2702(c), as a "person who has retired with a retirement benefit payable from a retirement system." A "member" is defined as a person who is "a member, vested former member, or deferred member of a retirement system." MCL 38.2702(b). Thus, different terminology is employed for a person who is receiving a pension benefit (a "retirant") and a person who may qualify for a pension benefit but is not yet receiving it (a "member").3

The Fire Fighters and Police Officers Retirement Act, 1937 PA 345, MCL 38.551 et seq, provides that a "member" who is at least 55 years of age and has 25 years of service may "retire." MCL 38.556(1)(a). A member who becomes incapacitated due to a duty-related injury or disease "shall be retired" and receive a disability retirement pension. MCL 38.556(2)(d). A member who has at least five years of service and suffers a non-duty related injury or disease "may be retired by the retirement board" and receive a formula-based disability retirement pension. MCL 38.556(2)(e). In either case, "a retired member restored to active service shall again become a member of the retirement system" and any workers disability compensation benefits are to be offset against any retirement benefits. MCL 38.556(2)(f). The State Police Retirement Act of 1986, 1986 PA 182, MCL 38.1601 et seq, defines a "retirant" as "a member who separates from service and retires with a retirement allowance payable from the appropriate reserve of the retirement system." MCL 38.1604(3). These statutes governing retirement benefits, including those applicable to police officers, support the conclusion that a "retired" police or law enforcement officer is one who separates from service with a retirement benefit. This conclusion would apply regardless of the amount of retirement benefit the officer receives, whether the benefit is based on the officer being injured in the line of duty, or whether the officer receives a retirement card.4  Given the changes that are being made in retirement benefits in various communities such as "401(k)" defined contribution plans replacing defined benefit plans, and the possibility of delayed receipt of vested retirement benefits the Legislature may wish to consider amending MCL 28.421(h) to assure that the language of the statute continues to reflect the underlying intent of the Legislature.

It is my opinion, therefore, that the terms "retired police officer" or "retired law enforcement officer," as used in the Concealed Pistol Licensing Act, MCL 28.421 et seq, mean a certified police or law enforcement officer who retired in good standing from his or her employment as a police or law enforcement officer and who is receiving a retirement benefit.

MIKE COX
Attorney General

1Former section 2(k) of the Commission on Law Enforcement Standards Act is now section 2(l) by virtue of an amendment to that act by 2004 PA 379.

2
Michigan Administrative Code, 1988 AACS, R 28.4151(c) defines the term "certified as a police officer" as a "person who has met all the selection, employment, training, or waiver of training standards and who is approved by the training council or pursuant to the act to exercise the authority of a police officer."

3A similar distinction in terminology is also found in section 2 of the Public Employee Retirement Benefit Protection Act, 2002 PA 100, under which "retirant" means a person "who has retired with a retirement benefit payable from a retirement system," MCL 38.1682(e), and "member" means "a member, vested former member, deferred member . . . . " MCL 38.1682(c).

4This conclusion is also supported by the decision in Clexton v Detroit, 179 Mich App 209, 214; 445 NW2d 201 (1989).  That case involved the interpretation of a city charter provision that defined a "retirant" as a member of the City's retirement system "who retires with a retirement allowance or pension paid by the retirement system."  The plaintiff had left his employment before becoming eligible to receive his pension, retaining the right to a retirement allowance upon reaching retirement age.  The plaintiff sought to receive payment of unused sick leave payable by the City to a "retirant."  Since the plaintiff was not receiving a retirement benefit, the court found he was not a "retirant."