PRESS RELEASE: Merger Measure Aims to Keep Park Patrons Safe by Joining Forces with State Police
Friday, May 25, 2018
A Common Sense Solution To The Statewide Problem Posed By A Shortage Of Park Police Officers.
While Memorial Day marks the start of a season marked by massive crowds, fireworks, and other special events taking place at New York State’s network of parks and historic sites, State Park Police Officers patrolling the state’s 80 venues are working with legislators to authorize a transfer of the 265 member force to the command of New York State Police.
The legislation (Senate 5267/Assembly 6968) sponsored by State Senator Rich Funke (R-Monroe County) and Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages (D-Nassau County) was among the priorities advanced by the PBA of New York State, the organization representing State Park Police Officers, during its annual advocacy day on May 1.
Senator Rich Funke said: "State Park Police risk their lives every day performing the same duties as New York State Police. There's no reason for them not to be on the same level playing field, especially when you consider how much safer our families will be by bringing the two entities together. Families and tourists look to our state parks and state lands as recreational outings. Public safety is our priority, and this legislation clearly demonstrates our commitment to protecting families, while supporting law enforcement."
Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages said: "As we enter the summer season, we should recognize the brave men and women of the State Park Police who patrol our parks and beaches. These highly trained, experienced police professionals strive to create a safe and welcoming environment in all of our State Parks. Despite their benefits, the State Park Police Force is not provided with all the necessary tools and attrition rate is substandard. I encourage all my governmental colleagues to support and enact this important legislation. As millions of New York families and tourists visit our State Parks each year, we must ensure we provide efficient public safety measures."
According to the PBA of New York State’s Founding President Manuel Vilar, and Director representing State Park Police Sergeants, the idea is not new, and dates back to a directive issued by Governor George Pataki in 1998 for the State Police to assume oversight responsibility for the New York State Park Police. That action came about stemming from long-standing deficiencies in State Park Police operations. Today’s State Park Police struggle to maintain staffing levels and are devastated by an unsustainable rate of attrition. The New York State Department of Civil Service recommends a Park Police strength to number 387.
Vilar, a career Police Sergeant with 34-years of service, frequently assigned to the six-mile-long Jones Beach waterfront said: “This is a common sense recommendation, and in 2018 it is just as valid under Governor Cuomo’s leadership as it was twenty years ago when proposed by Governor Pataki.”
The idea of the merger was further contemplated in 2003 when a joint agency review was conducted presenting two options: 1) A merger of the Park Police into the New York State Police; or 2) Create an Autonomous State Park Police Entity.
The sponsor’s memo of support states the bill will result in enhanced public safety and cost savings by better utilization workforce and reduced costs for the academy and training for both forces. Additionally, the merger will address the high rate of attrition faced by the State Park Police while eliminating duplication of services and equipment. It will also reduce overtime costs incurred by the State Park Police as a stand-alone unit.