Alfred State President Dr. Skip Sullivan is requesting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign a bill that would help solve an ongoing problem of recruiting and retaining a stable and diverse campus police force.
The bill, S.3221(Robach)/A.4519(Abbate), would give university police officers across the system the option to transfer from their current retirement plan to the New York State and Local Police and Fire Retirement System (P&F), which offers a 25-year, half-pay retirement benefit. All other police agencies in New York State offer plans in the P&F retirement system, and approximately 95 percent of those agencies offer a 20-year, half-pay retirement benefit.
The bill was delivered to the governor on Dec. 7. The governor has the option to sign it or veto it.
“Campus safety is among the governor’s top priorities, yet the current university police retirement plan is inadequate when compared to the plan offered to more than 500 other municipal police departments in the state,” said Sullivan. “The result is a greater migration of officers from the university police force to police departments that offer more appropriate pension and disability benefits, leading to high attrition and instability among the campus police forces.”
Among those expressing support for the bill are SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman Carl McCall, as well as New York Women in Law Enforcement, National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, and advocacy centers against sexual assault. It is also supported by the PBA of the New York State Troopers, the New York State Public Employee Conference, the Police Conference of New York, the Alliance of Public Retiree Organizations of New York, SUNY Student Assembly, the NYS Association of Chiefs of Police, and the PBA of NYS.
The cost for the state to train a university police officer is between $85,000 and $100,000. Their early departure from the force for a police officer job within the state means the university has lost those funds, while the officer’s new police agency has just saved money for training costs.
The high rate of attrition affects campuses in many ways. It means there are more open positions throughout the year, resulting in officers working longer shifts. And it means fewer officers with the appropriate experience to enhance community policing and prevent and investigate crimes.
Furthermore, SUNY officers are dealing with higher rates of suicide and mental illness on campus, new sexual assault policies, a heroin epidemic, and rapidly growing campuses due to the START-UP NY program. With campus safety a top national concern, and a steady stream of threats to soft targets from active shooters and global terrorist groups, experience and appropriate staffing are extremely important.
“Police force stability is an important factor in keeping students, faculty, staff, and visitors safe while they are on campus,” Sullivan said. “Our campuses lack this stability under the current conditions. Signing this bill will correct this issue, and thereby make our campuses safer.”