SUNY police chiefs say centralization idea flawed

The SUNY Police Chiefs' Association has refuted a March 11 report alleging that New York State could save $3 million in the next year by centralizing the SUNY police force.

The report, delivered by State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Jeff Klein, found that 28 individuals hold a "Chief of Police" title on SUNY payroll and earn salaries between $70,000 and $141,000. Klein suggested that the campus police chiefs duplicate administrative tasks and that centralization would make the SUNY police force more effective.

Consequently, the SUNY Police Chiefs' Association released a report which responded point by point to Klein's claims. "Managerial positions are critical to the efficient and effective delivery of police service on our SUNY campuses," the report states. "These individuals not only serve as police executives, they are senior campus administrators, managing sworn officers and other personnel critical to the mission of keeping our campuses safe and complying with state and federal mandates."

The Police Chiefs' Association also questions the savings that Klein says would come from centralization, noting that the proposal could actually increase personnel expenditures.

Robert Bonfiglio, vice president for Student and Campus Life, said that he meets biweekly with Interim Chief of Police Scott Kenney, who declined to comment for this article. He said he is not in favor of centralization and questioned how effectively a presiding administrative officer in Albany could do his or her job without knowledge of what is happening on individual campuses.

He also pointed out that each SUNY campus has different needs and that the procedures applicable in Geneseo may be different from those applicable to SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, for example. "There's a reason each campus should have its own police department," he said.

If centralization were to occur, each campus would likely still have a presiding officer within their respective police forces, but policy decisions would be made at a state-wide level. Bonfiglio said that while other state police agencies like the State Police and Department of Environmental Conservation are centralized, "that is the paradigm in law, but not the paradigm in higher education."

Bonfiglio also said that in general, SUNY is a decentralized organization since the campuses and not SUNY administration make curriculum changes, capital projects and other major decisions. He said centralization of the police force would be "a totally different approach to how things are managed in SUNY."

Aside from targeting the SUNY police force, Klein called on SUNY to cut its overtime pay in half. His report was part of a series of wasteful government spending investigations.