Staff Editorial – Saving money at what cost?

We all agree that saving a buck or two is never a bad thing. But for New York State and its current fiscal situation, saving a few billion bucks is needed just to make it through the next year.

We understand times are tough. The Oswegonian welcomes any plan that could reduce spending while still providing a sustainable level of resources and programs to citizens and students of the state.

Currently, SUNY as a whole is under fire for the enormous amount of cash spent on staffing and overtime pay. In particular, SUNY University police have been the target of a massive proposed restructuring and consolidation effort. The plan could cut nearly $3 million from police spending by consolidating high-level administration at the local level and replacing it with a regional model with a master SUNY command in Albany.

Yet saving money when it deals with public safety and law enforcement is risky business. Detaching command from individual campuses takes away a critical connection to the pulse of a college. How can we expect the same level of care and safety when the officer commanding our school is also commanding SUNY ESF and Upstate Medical? How could they respond to a situation any better than having a local police chief intimately educated in the campus and its students?

In our view, consolidation can be a good thing. Standardized training, universal equipment, and reduced paperwork all put better-prepared and more able officers in charge of our safety. If all SUNY students pay the same amount in tuition, why shouldn’t we all get the same level of protection? Currently, that is not the case, and a centralization effort focusing on those areas could be incredibly beneficial to all 64 SUNY campuses.

What we do not need is more overextended bureaucracy. As The Oswegonian reported last week, SUNY is doing everything in its power to gain greater independence from the state’s command, allowing it the power to purchase what it needs as it needs it. Why then, should university police go in the opposite direction and ask for more top-down governing?

The NYS University Police Officers Union supports this elimination of local command, and we understand why. Officers aren’t on the top pay bracket. They aren’t making the big dollars, so it makes sense for them to want to trim from the top. But this move has got to be about so much more than dollar signs.

Moving too quickly on a restructuring effort this large is asking for disaster. It could actually end up costing the state more money in the long run as chiefs re-enter the civil service system.

Take what savings we can get from consolidated purchasing, procedure and training, but leave our individual campus character intact. We take pride in our individual Oswego character. Let’s keep U.P. the same.