20-Year Retirement Parity Will Save Taxpayers Millions from Attrition and Help Retain and Attract Minority Officers
Time is running out to stop the exodus of New York state’s highly specialized and community focused police officers and fix the problem that is making it impossible to promote diversity within our state’s various police forces. The PBA of New York State, the union representing New York State Park Police, New York State University Police and the New York State Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation 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 officers transfer to municipal agencies.
Over the past decade the New York State Park Police and New York State University Police have lost nearly 300 sworn officers – many to municipal agencies who reap the benefits of New York state taxpayers’ investment in training and first year salaries to the tune of $37 million. These staggering totals do not include attrition numbers and costs associated with the loss of our Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Officers. To make matters worse, municipal agencies specifically target diverse officers for recruitment to bolster their own agencies’ diversity at the expense of state agencies and taxpayers who have significantly invested in the officers’ development; this is a form of “hunger games” where New Yorkers lose.
The fact is most officers do not want to transfer to another agency. They joined the ranks of their state agency because they identified with the specialized mission of each and wanted to work directly with certain communities whether that be tourists, outdoors enthusiasts or students. The approach of these state agencies has always been community policing – facilitating access and utilization of New York’s unparalleled natural resources as well as cultural centers and institutions of higher learning. And the populations who utilize these resources come from all walks of life and every corner of the world, necessitating the very diversity that is being challenged by attrition and transfers.
When lives hang in the balance, New Yorkers know they can depend on the specialized high angle rope rescue and swiftwater rescue teams from the New York State Forest Rangers and Park Police. They also know that our Environmental Conservation Officers are patrolling the waters, woodlands and urban jungle to prevent poaching and illegal dumping while also promoting environmental justice. Students and their families know that New York State University Police will keep campuses safe, promote the free exchange of ideas, and provide parents peace of mind in knowing that the officers’ watchful eyes will look after their children when they themselves cannot be there. These are the skills and experience municipal agencies so highly prize and will spend heavily on to lure away our members.
But we can prevent this by offering PBANYS members 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, which is quickly drawing to a close. Now is the time to act before the state loses even more of their investment in officers’ training, salaries, and experience.
A 20-year retirement is an 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 and equity by providing PBANYS members with the respect and 20-year retirement they’ve worked and sacrificed to earn.
Manny Vilar is President of the Board of Directors for the PBA of New York State