Governor Hochul, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie Have Historic Opportunity to Protect the Public and Environment Through Pension Parity

By James McCartney | March 19, 2024

As the representative for more than 1,100 highly specialized law enforcement officers across New York State, the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) is calling for the inclusion of our 20-year retirement parity in the final state budget to reverse the mass exodus of our members to other law enforcement agencies due to retirement inequity. When these highly sought-after officers leave, they take with them invaluable and irreplaceable experience in protecting our state’s natural, cultural, and educational resources.

Governor Hochul has repeatedly stated that she supports the mission of the men and women who comprise New York State’s Environmental Conservation Officers, Park Police Officers, State University Police, and Forest Rangers. The Governor previously vetoed retirement parity legislation saying that it must be negotiated as part of the state budget process. As much as this answer had disappointed our members we do understand. But that was then, and this is now.

New York State is currently negotiating its state budget, and Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie are coming to the table having included our 20-year retirement in their one house budget bills. Now is the time for all parties to work together to deliver long-overdue retirement parity that is the gold standard for law enforcement officers in New York State – and the lack of which being the primary reason given for our members leaving their agencies early.

With the challenges facing law enforcement today, including ever expanding missions and increased demands for specialized skills and expertise, it is more important than ever to provide officers with competitive retirement benefits that reflect the unique nature of their profession, so they remain with their agency and the taxpayers’ investment in them is not squandered.

Moreover, retirement parity is key to promoting diversity within law enforcement units. By offering a 20-year retirement option, we can attract a more diverse pool of candidates. As agencies that specialize in, and in fact pioneered community policing strategies, having law enforcement officers that reflect the communities they serve is paramount to building the trust needed to strengthen, protect, and uplift these communities.

New York State’s environmental initiatives are in jeopardy due to a lack of Environmental Conservation Officers who hold offenders responsible for violations of environmental laws and regulations. Without an adequate number of experienced officers to enforce these laws, our state’s efforts to combat air and water pollution, poaching, illegal dumping, the invasion of illicit species that threaten delicate ecosystems, and other environmental crimes are undermined.

By providing retirement parity for our members, New York State can ensure that we have the staffing and expertise necessary to protect our environment and preserve our natural resources for future generations. This is not just a matter of public safety but also of environmental justice, health, stewardship, and responsibility.

The asthma rates among children in New York City should be a source of shame for our state. We simply do not have the number of Environmental Conservation Officers needed to monitor for illegally idling diesel trucks, burning of waste, and other sources of respiratory irritants that flood our hospitals with suffering children and the related costs for avoidable medical treatment.

As negotiations continue on the state budget, we urge Governor Hochul and state legislators to prioritize retirement parity for law enforcement officers. By including this critical measure in the final budget, we can support our officers, promote diversity within law enforcement, and safeguard our environment for the benefit of all New Yorkers.

The time to act is now. Let us seize this opportunity to ensure retirement parity for New York’s specialized law enforcement officers and strengthen our state’s commitment to public safety and environmental health and protection.

James McCartney serves as the President of the PBA of New York State.


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