Op-Ed: Retaining Experienced Diverse Officers and Saving Millions in Training Costs Makes a 20-Year Retirement Bill a Wise Investment for New York

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A graduating class of Police Benevolent Association of New York State (PBA of New York State) officer. Photo from PBA of New York State website.
Manny Vilar, Board President for the PBA of New York State

New York State is losing diverse officers from the New York State University Police, State Park Police, and State Environmental Conservation Officers and Forest Rangers to municipal agencies at an alarming rate. These municipal agencies often pay more while providing a superior retirement plan that allows retirement after 20 years instead of the 25 years that a minuscule number of state law enforcement officers are still held to.

The PBA of New York State (PBANYS), the union representing these officers, has been fighting to promote diversity within their ranks and retain these officers by advocating for retirement parity through a 20-year retirement benefit – the lack of which has been cited as the primary reason state law enforcement officers transfer to municipal agencies.

Nearly 300 sworn officers from the New York State Park Police and New York State University Police have transferred to municipal agencies over the past decade – taking their vast experience and significant state investment in training with them. New York state taxpayers effectively lost $37 million in training and first-year salaries in the process. These staggering totals do not include attrition numbers and costs associated with the loss of our Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Officers, of which only 10% come from downstate communities. Municipal agencies love poaching these officers, especially multicultural officers, who diversify their ranks while simultaneously leaving the state agencies whiter and less reflective of the communities they serve. 

Governor Hochul and the New York State Legislature support further diversifying the ranks of state law enforcement, and with good reason. New York State is the crossroads of the world. Nowhere will you find such diversity of culture, ethnicity, religion, politics, and self-identity. Tourism is one of the state’s largest industries representing more than $100 billion in economic activity annually. Our state’s higher-educational institutions promote growth of the mind, industry, and peace through understanding. When the public looks at our women and men in uniform they need to see themselves. This needs to be nurtured through investment – investment in the full-spectrum of individuals who share a common background with those they serve and protect.

The fact is most officers do not want to transfer to another agency. We can prevent the mass exodus of these highly trained and experienced officers by offering them the same retirement plan that 97% of police officers in New York state already receive. PBANYS members are not asking for special treatment, they are asking for equitable treatment. Both houses of the state legislature support providing PBANYS members with a 20-year retirement as evidenced by unanimous passage at a time when controversies elsewhere in the nation have negatively impacted community/police relations.

In her veto message last year Governor Hochul expressed support for the 20-year bill but indicated that it must be dealt with in the state budget process. Time is quickly running out and New York must act before the state loses even more of its investment. New York’s leaders see the value in these specialized skills which is why they made the investment in the recruitment, training and equipping of the men and women who comprise the membership of PBANYS. It only stands to reason that they should want to protect this investment on behalf of New York’s residents and visitors.

A 20-year retirement is the way to protect this investment in the future of community policing by state agencies as it promotes diversity in recruitment and retains officers for the duration of their careers. Now is the time to affirm New York state’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, equity and environmental and social justice by providing PBANYS members with the respect and 20-year retirement they’ve worked and sacrificed to earn.

Manny Vilar is the Board President for the PBA of New York State.

Established in 2011, the Police Benevolent Association of New York State (PBA of New York State), is a law enforcement labor union representing the interests of approximately 1,100 members of the New York State Agency Police Services Unit (APSU).  The PBA of New York State is the exclusive bargaining agent for the New York State University (SUNY) Police, the New York State Environmental Conservation Police, the New York State Park Police, and the New York State Forest Rangers.  PBA of New York State  members police and protect New York State’s public universities and colleges; state parks and historic sites; and they enforce state laws and protect our lands and forests and ensure environmental safety and quality throughout the state.

 

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