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Letter: SUNY police officers merit equitable pension

SUNY police officers merit equitable pension

The News editorial, “New York cannot afford to expand pension benefits for SUNY police officers,” presents a misinformed view of the State University Police pension bill. To characterize the bill as an “extraordinarily generous” benefit that would provide an “extravagant pension” is an exaggerated claim.

Officers in the State University law enforcement program are recruited and trained in the same manner as local police officers. And just as local officers ensure the safety of New York’s municipalities and residents, our officers, for example at Buffalo State and the University at Buffalo, ensure the safety of SUNY campus communities and the hundreds of thousands of students who call those communities home.

It only makes sense, therefore, that SUNY police officers receive the same benefits as officers on municipal forces. But because SUNY officers are not treated as equals, the university faces a critical staffing problem as more and more of our officers opt to transfer to local, county and state departments, where they are assured a 20- or 25-year retirement plan – the standard retirement benefit in New York State.

Officer turnover is a serious problem for our SUNY campuses, and a costly one for New York State. Since 2008, we have spent $5.4 million in replacement officer training costs. We estimate that the continued lack of an equitable pension plan over the next five years will add costs of more than $10 million to replace current officers who may opt to transfer to other departments. By comparison, the annual cost to the retirement system – under the proposed legislative bill – is estimated at less than $2 million per year, offsetting these expenses.

The proposed bill, which has the support of SUNY, the State Legislature, police union leadership and our Student Assembly leaders, is an essential element in our ability to protect SUNY campuses and their students, faculty, staff and visitors with the professional law enforcement presence that they expect and deserve.

R. Bruce McBride, Ed.D.

Commissioner for University Police