Are police officers exiting the field?

Albany County

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Albany Police Union says there’s an exodus of officers retiring during the pandemic, but the Mayor’s Office is refuting those claims saying officer retirement is on par with pre-pandemic numbers.

“You’re seeing officers leaving for retirement in droves. It’s just not like the job it use to be anymore,” said President of the Albany Police Union Greg McGee.

Protests, pay and the pandemic are all reasons McGee said officers are hanging up their badges.

“It’s a combination of everything where guys are saying, ‘Hey, my livelihood is at stake, my family’s livelihood is at stake, why am I going to risk everything that’s going on out there,’” McGee said.

The union rep said the department is hemorrhaging officers. Since February 2020 he said 28 officers have retired and another 11 have either handed in their resignations or transferred to another agency.

“It is not isolated to just Albany. It’s just the major cities across the country that are experiencing turmoil,” McGee said.

“As with anyone, in any trade, who would leave the job with a healthy retirement, the officers will take advantage of that,” said Police Consultant John Cooney.

Cooney said anti-police protests over the last year have also incentivized officers to retire, but not in the way one may think. 

“The social disdain that has occurred has created overtime. Overtime creates a benefit for the officers to look at in regard to their final average salary,” Cooney said.

Officer overtime during anti-police protests has payed out for officers’ looking to retire.

The last three years of a cop’s salary is averaged and factored into their pensions. Cooney said the time is now for officers to get out, if they’re due for retirement,  because a year of overtime like 2020 is likely not to be seen again.

“You really have to look at your numbers and say, ‘I was going to stay for 35 [years], but I’m ready to go at 20 [years],” Cooney said.

The mayor’s office tells a different story about retirement within the APD. In a chart they provided, it shows only 25 officers leaving the department so far this year. They said this year the department’s on track to match 2019’s numbers.

McGee said his numbers include officers who are still on the payroll using sick time and vacation hours before they officially retire.

In a statement, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff David Gallin blames the “… lack of a contract and much-deserved raises for the officers of the Albany Police Department.” 

He added, “Mayor Sheehan has said publicly no fewer than 100 times she wants nothing more than to give our police officers a much-deserved raise,” Gallin said.

Despite all the issues that could drive officers away, Cooney said there will always be recruits to fill the ranks. 

“The good news is we’re always going to get those kids that start out at six-years-old, and by 15 or 16 they say, ‘I want to be a cop, and I’m going to be a cop.’ And those are the people we still see applying, getting hired and serving the public in a very positive way,” Cooney said.

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