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NYC DOC faces retirement wave as 3 big recruit classes hit 20 years on the job

The NYC DOC said 160 officers retired in 2023, 368 in 2022 and 403 in 2021 — a total of 931 over three years


Mark Woodward

By Graham Rayman
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Staffing at Rikers Island and other parts of New York City’s jail system could get thinner as members of large Correction Academy classes in 2004, 2005 and 2006 hit the department’s 20-year retirement age.

In all, 2,075 officers graduated from the Correction Academy in those three years — 621 in 2004, 615 in 2005 and 839 in 2006, the city Department of Correction said. Correction officers can get full pension and post-employment benefits after 20 years.

The potential retirements present a new challenge for the agency that has already seen hundreds of retirements over the past three years, especially since those recruits 20 years ago are now among the most experienced members of the agency.

The total number of correction officers of all ranks has dropped from 8,872 in January 2021 to 6,109 in January, 2024 — a 31% decline, agency figures show.

The agency has at the same time struggled with recruiting new officers. A recent class of just 40 that was supposed to start in February was postponed to buy time to bring in new recruits.

On Thursday, that class began training with 82 recruits instead of the original 40, the department said. It is one of the smallest academy classes in memory.

“The department is working to further increase recruitment efforts, including additional advertising and campaigns in anticipation of potential retirements of uniformed staff over the next several years,” said Correction Department spokesman Frank Dwyer.

Benny Boscio, the president of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association, noted that the City Council turned back Mayor Adams’ proposal in 2022 to hire 578 new officers.

“Despite our warnings over the past several years and our testimony delivered before the City Council and the state Legislature, where we detailed the consequences of not ensuring safe staffing levels, our calls for help were ignored by most policy makers,” Boscio said.

“Instead of cutting our agency to the bone and expecting our essential workforce to do more with less, the City Council needs to start investing in us instead of demonizing us. The path towards a safer jail system for everyone begins with having safe staffing levels.”

Patrick Ferriaiuolo, president of the Correction Captains Association, said the retirements could deplete an already reduced roster of captains. In fiscal 2023, there were 571 active captains, compared to roughly 800 in 2021 — a drop of about 28%, according to Ferriaiuolo and city payroll records.

“It definitely is a concern. We are already working short when it comes to correction officers and captains,” he said. “We desperately need captains.”

But Council Member Sandy Nurse, chair of the Criminal Justice Committee, said the city still enjoys the highest detainee-officer ratio in the country. She also noted a recurring criticism — that more officers should be working in the jails, rather than posts outside the jails.

“The department should prioritize getting existing officers to return to work or remove them from the ranks,” said Nurse (D- Brooklyn ). “The department must also improve their staff management and deployment practices in order to ensure the safety of officers so that they actually want to work.

“Regular reporting shows that officers are not deployed in alignment with DOC [ Department of Correction ] protocols, creating hazardous and unsafe working conditions for their staff,” Nurse said.

The department said 160 officers retired in 2023, 368 in 2022 and 403 in 2021 — a total of 931 over three years. Those retirements, the union has said, were fueled to some extent by disaffection with the job and the relentless scrutiny the system has come under from advocates, various oversight agencies, and the federal monitor tracking violence and use of force.

Meanwhile, the agency added 228 recruits in 2022 and 278 in 2023, a total of 506.

Officers have been working without a contract for two years since it expired in early 2022. A two-year delay in a new deal is not unusual for city contract negotiations.

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