Chattanooga's current fire and police pension quagmire has its roots in 1990s-era reforms aimed at pruning top-heavy management ranks.

Fifteen years ago the Chattanooga Police Department had nearly as many administrators behind desks as officers arresting criminals on the street.

Since police pensions then were capped at 60 percent of a sergeant's pay — an average of less than $24,000 a year — midlevel managers clung to their jobs, some for as long as 40 years, rather than retire and take big pay cuts.

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