Within the next five years, New Paltz Town Police could lose a collective 300 years of experience on the job. That’s the warning given by Chief Robert Lucchesi during the August 19 Police Commission meeting. It’s based on those officers who are or will be eligible for retirement and that includes the chief. Lucchesi has no plans to leave that soon, but is concerned about the fact that younger officers are not sticking around after being trained because it’s difficult to secure a full-time position. That’s an intentional strategy: police spending makes up a big chunk of the town budget and full-time officers get costlier benefits. A consequence is that young officers frequently leave if a job opens up in another department.
Chief Lucchesi acknowledged that “legacy costs” including pensions and medical benefits can be significant, but pointed out that there are costs to hiring, as well. The training to get an academy graduate ready for the field runs $16,000 — not including the overtime paid to the field training officer. “We’ve spent $300,000 training people who are no longer here,” the chief said.
Supervisor Neil Bettez seemed receptive to shifting the practice, which has been in place for some years. There are soft benefits to longevity, including the steadying influence of experience and the strengthening of both departmental culture and community relations.