PBA of NYS Will Testify at Joint Committee on Environmental Conservation
Monday, February 13, 2017
Members will recommend merging Park Police with the State Police, hosting additional police academies, purchasing new vehicles and upgrading equipment. The Police Benevolent Association of New York State Law Enforcement (PBA of NYS) today will testify before the Joint Committee on Environmental Conservation. Three PBA of NYS members will represent three of four PBA of NYS units at the hearing.
Chief among the union’s recommendations is a proposed merger of the Park Police with the State Troopers. Manny Vilar, PBA of NYS founding president, the park police sergeants director, and a 30-plus year member of the Park Police, said mismanagement by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is causing inappropriate staffing levels, inadequate recruitment and retention, and a poor protection of visitors, park properties and the Park Police officers.
The rate of attrition per year for the each of the past three years is 30 percent. There are 259 department members. In 2000, the staffing level was 282. Yet after 17 years and 13 academies producing more than 390 police officers, there has been a net loss of officers – a total of 413 – at a cost of tens of millions of dollars in recruitment, evaluation and training.
“The Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation is eager to advertise the beauty of our state parks and historic sites and it boasts about setting attendance records – 69.3 million visitors in 2016, an increase of 3.9 million over the previous year,” Vilar said. “The State Troopers’ management understands policing. They are much better suited to address and resolve our issues.”
In addition to Park Police, union members representing Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Officers are seeking increased academy sizes.
“Funding to increase staffing levels for Forest Rangers will help keep pace with state’s new acquisition of property,” said Drew Cavanagh, the PBA of NYS’s Forest Rangers superior officers director. “Inadequate staffing means fewer people responding to calls and officers having to travel longer distances to make rescues, find lost children, fight fires, and investigate illegal dumping.”
In New York, Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Police share a common academy. PBA of NYS members acknowledged the state’s efforts to host academies, but New York needs more academies to keep pace with attrition and to appropriately patrol state land.
All three units will ask for funding to purchase a wide range of outdated equipment. Vehicles break down routinely, many snowmobiles and ATVs are more than a decade old, and some boats were purchased in the 1960s. Some Forest Rangers, for instance, have had to buy much of their own equipment, such as helmets, gloves, crampons, ropes, packs and headlamps.
“We respond to all types of calls, including stranded people, blizzards and fugitive searches, and we do it in all kinds of weather and on a variety of challenging terrain,” said John Burke, PBA of NYS’s EnCon Police superior officers director. “The public needs to have confidence in their police force. However, that becomes difficult when patrol cars break down due to excessive mileage or are so rusted that the vehicles’ road-worthiness is questionable.
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. Our 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.