The state parks department has held its first police academy since 2008, graduating 36 new officers -- 13 of whom have been assigned to Long Island.
The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation did not hold an academy class the past four years because of state budget constraints. In the meantime it has lost many officers, particularly from Long Island, to other jurisdictions because of higher pay at downstate departments or lower cost of living upstate.
The new officers will make up some of the deficit that has led to complaints from police unions that the safety of visitors was being compromised.
The officers from the academy will bring the statewide total of park police personnel to 233, up from 205 last summer. On Long Island, the number of police will rise from 50 to 61, taking into account resignations and retirements. In 2008, there were 301 police statewide and 84 on Long Island.
"The graduation of the first park police academy since 2008 marks an extremely special day for New York," parks commissioner Rose Harvey said Friday. "We're thrilled that this first class since the Great Recession represents the beginning of the rebuilding of both the park police force and the entire parks system."
The 36 recruits completed a six-month residential training program at the State Park Police Academy in Rensselaerville in Albany County on May 10. After their assignment to park regions, they began 10 weeks of field training on Monday to be followed by regular patrol duty.
"It's a great thing that they finally got a class in as short-staffed as we had been over the last five years," said Troy Caupain, director of the Park Police Officers Association of the Police Benevolent Association of New York State. "The 13 officers coming to Long Island is a good start and will obviously help us."
Caupain said he hopes the state continues its commitment to holding additional academy classes in future years "so we can bolster our numbers back to where they were in 2008."