Letter to Editor by retired member regarding law enforcement comparison

We wanted all of our members to be aware of an absolutely great and comprehensive letter to the Editor sent by retired D Troop Sergeant Duane Corbo to the Oswego Valley News paper.  While we certainly support all police officers and deputy sheriffs in their contract negotiations, the main points in Duane’s letter, that Troopers have very unique and demanding positions, cannot be debated.  This letter was so well written that we wanted to share it with you.  The PBA thanks Duane Corbo for writing this, as well as Trooper Matt Peck who alerted us to this. The text of the letter is below, and a scanned copy of the letter is shown above.

“Considerable differences between sheriffs and state police”

Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todds recent statements and comparison of New York State Troopers to the members of his agency invites a bit of clarification.

I’ve known Sheriff Todd professionally for several years and we have both placed a high priority on how to best serve the residents of Oswego County. I wish the best for the members of his department in their upcoming arbitration.

However, the statement attributed to Sheriff Todd that there is “not much difference between his deputies and state troopers” other than “the color of their tie” I presume was a joke, but to alleviate any misconceptions, the following should be considered in the analogy:

Binding arbitration has certainly affected N.Y. State Police salaries, but the decision reached by the arbitrator was so done so only after extensive research, documentation, job analysis, expert testimony, outstanding legal representation, lobbying, and dedicated efforts by PBA delegates as well as members within all three bargaining units.

Positive gains were made, but only after establishing a clear distinction between state police members and other law-enforcement agencies throughout the state.

In addition, comparison of similar police agencies, such as the New Jersey, Pennsylvania. Connecticut, and Massachusetts State Police, were utilized by the arbitrator prior to rendering a decision.

The sheriff may be “too embarrassed” to determine his salary if he were fortunate enough to have been a member of the State Police for 30 years.

Perhaps he would be less embarrassed if he was assigned to Long Island or Westchester County, where some troopers, prior to some of the recent salary increases, were eligible for public assistance due to their income level in this affluent area of the state, and were among the lowest-paid police agencies throughout the downstate area.

The same “sort” of training referred to in the article also needs clarification. If a prospective trooper candidate even makes it through the thousands of applications for the limited number of available positions by successfully passing the written examination, physical fitness tests, polygraph examinations, background investigations, and medical evaluations, the completion of the Basic School still remains. Once hired, there are no guarantees.

Newly appointed trooper training consists of six months, five days a week, living in the para-military atmosphere of the State Police Academy.

With 15 or 16 hour days being the norm, an extremely structured environment, along with the high physical and academic standards that must be met to remain there, a certain percentage either leave of their own volition or fail to maintain acceptable levels of performance and are dismissed.

Upon graduation, 10 weeks of field training and a year of closely scrutinized probation must also be successfully completed.

In addition, the rules, regulations, and oversight of supervisory personnel with the state police is a far different working environment than the sheriff or any of his deputies have ever experienced.

A newly appointed trooper’s work assignment may be anywhere in the state, in many instances hundreds of miles from their families, which is a burden not confronted by any other law-enforcement agency in the state.

In some instances it has taken years for troopers to return to where they lived, or desire to work. Not surprisingly, the “purple tie” that the Sheriff flippantly refers to, has been found by many to be very elusive for those who seek it, and very significant to those who wear it.

Unlike deputies statewide, individuals who eventually seek promotions through the uniform ranks can look forward again to being stationed anywhere in the State of New York, possibly paying for two households while waiting for an opportunity to get within one or two hundred miles of their homes.

Sometimes incidents require deployment of troopers for a week or more, often with little or no prior notice (the attack on the World Trade Center and Hurricane Katrina being prime examples). Factors such as these were also considered by the arbitrator when he made his decision on the salaries of state troopers.

The New York State Police employs over 4,600 sworn members, and more than a 1,000 non-sworn employees. Aviation, canine, SCUBA, counter terrorism, forensic sciences, violent felony warrant squads, MRT (Swat), hazardous-materials enforcement, accident reconstruction, computer-crimes unit, narcotics-enforcement teams, auto theft, and BCI investigators assigned to individual stations throughout the state are all “troopers” when a contract is being considered.

One cannot simply compare the role of the uniform trooper to the road patrol of a sheriff’s department.

The sheriff’s comment regarding the absence of any perceived benefits of higher education, at least as it pertains to his employees, is unfortunate.

Apparently police chiefs and sheriffs nationwide have had more positive results and, in many instances, incorporate higher-education tuition reimbursement in their collective-bargaining agreements.

They claim it improves the professional standards within their agency, helps to develop critical thinking and decision making, and, in a 5 year study of all police agencies in the State of Florida, highlighted during one International Association of Chief’s of Police Conference, significantly impacted upon reducing disciplinary issues of officers throughout the state.

I believe any individual, be they federal, state, city, county, town, or village, who willingly accepts the responsibilities and dangers associated with this profession, should be fairly compensated for the unique working conditions the’ confront on a daily basis.

Higher salaries and professional development are critical components if selection and retention of qualified individuals is expected.

Governmental entities must take that into consideration during contract negotiations, not solely for the individual, or municipality, but for the citizens of their respective communities.

Duane S. Corbo

N.Y. State Police (retired)

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