A law enforcement union wants to diversify its workforce, but they say pay and benefits are holding them back.
"We are just trying to come in line with where everybody else is at," said PBA of New York State President Ryan Law. "This is not above and beyond what anybody else has. We want to be equal so we can retain the people the state is training."
Law's members are police officers at SUNY campuses. They are parks police and serve as forest rangers and environmental conservation officers. While they receive the same kind of training as all police officers, their state retirement plan is less generous. It's not uncommon for cops to leave for better pay.
Law pointed to one SUNY police officer who took a demotion in rank for better pay at a local police department.
"Top of his career in the rank and file, 13 years on," he said. "He went down the road and got a pay raise of $20,000 for his demotion. SUNY not only lost a well-trained officer, they lost a diverse officer."
There have been dozens of officers in recent years who left for better pay and benefits elsewhere.
"Let's face it, these other agencies, they're also trying to acquire a diverse police force," he said. "They literally poach our officers, wait for them to be trained and then they take them."
And that has made recruitment and retention, especially among people of color, a challenge.
"We just want to match the diverse population New York state has," Law said. "We have people across the state with different backgrounds and as police officers that are trying to come in line with what the governor has put out there in terms of police reform. He's guided us on what he wants his police agencies to do. And fixing the diversity problem is a big part of that."
State Police troopers and most local police officers are on what's known as 20-year plan for retirement. But officers represented by the PBA of New York state have a 25-year plan, which is less generous. State lawmakers have proposed legislation aimed at boosting benefits for the union's officers.
The hope is with a better benefit package, trained and experience officers will stay. Without it, the attrition could continue.
"Absolutely, 100%," Law said. "We are losing people for those reasons."