Make police pensions public: Gov. Hochul does the right thing, signing an overdue transparency bill

Anthony DelMundo/New York Daily News/TNS

We offer brickbats aplenty to elected officials who do the wrong thing, so it’s only fair to present a bouquet for a job well done. Today’s recipient is Gov. Hochul, who on Monday signed a simple bill to clarify in state law that the names of government pensioners are public — that is, the actual “retiree,” not a surviving family member, the “beneficiary,” who collects the pension when the retiree dies.

So the salary of Police Officer John Smith is now public, as is his pension when he puts in retirement papers after 20 years. Should he pass away and his pension is assigned to his widow, Jane Smith, her name remains unseen.

This has long been the spirit of the law, but the NYPD’s Police Pension Fund has fought against disclosure and a series of court errors has complicated the matter for a dozen years as the nonprofit Empire Center for Public Policy has steadfastly sought to collect the information for its extremely useful website on how New York’s tax dollars are used.

The new law, which took effect immediately when Hochul signed it (the same day that we urged her to do so), should resolve the dispute in favor of transparency and the Empire Center, which on Tuesday submitted a new Freedom of Information Law request for the last five years of pension payments along with the names of NYPD retirees. The PPF must comply.

Think about how foolish this fight has been. Salary figures are freely available for former NYPD Commissioners Ray Kelly and Bill Bratton and Jimmy O’Neill, but there’s nada on their well-earned pensions. It’s the same for every cop: Their salaries are public, but their pensions are secret. Retirement raises an impenetrable transparency shield. Why?

This only applies to the NYPD, as pensions for every other public employee in this state, including all other police departments, have long been public. We value the NYPD greatly, but they don’t get to have their retirees collect public pensions that the paying public can’t see.