American Police Beat February 2004


The nation's largest police union, the PBA of New York City with over 25,000 members, rang in the New Year by staging an extravaganza on 42nd Street in the heart of Times Square — an area known as "the crossroads of the world."

On January 5, PBA President Pat Lynch unveiled a towering and panoramic billboard that makes a convincing case that New York City police officers deserve a hefty pay increase.

New York City cops have been working without a contract since June 2002. PBA officials report that there are sporadic contract talks, but they appear to be going nowhere.

A starting police officer in the NYPD makes $36,878; after five years they take home $54,000.

The billboard — 30 feet high, more than 82 feet wide and in living color — went up on the north side of the street, just east of Eighth Avenue on the afternoon of New Year's Eve. It cost the PBA $75,000, not including production and installation charges.

It delivers to tourists from Texas, sightseers from Singapore and ordinary New Yorkers the same disheartening message — that New York City police officers, as omnipresent and professional as they are, are shockingly underpaid.

"The FBI has called New York City the safest big city in America," Lynch said. "And that's because of the hard work of NYPD cops. They have done an outstanding job keeping our citizens safe from criminals and protecting the country from another terrorist attack. Yet when you look at our paychecks, our total-compensation package ranks 145th among the nation's 200 largest cities.

Lynch went on to point our that officers working the streets of New York City don't even earn the average of those 200 cities. "This is a situation that has to be fixed," Lynch vowed at a packed press conference the day the billboard went up.

"We want the public to know that the reason they are living in safety is because of New York City police officers," he continued. "We know they're shocked to learn that we're making a lot less than other police professionals in other communities across the nation."

The billboard's unveiling attracted wide media coverage. New York 1 ran a story with pictures of the display, comments from Lynch and interviews with passersby who were all supportive of pay increases. Similar pieces aired on Fox-5, UPN-9 and WINS news radio. The next day's daily newspapers featured prominent coverage — with photos. At night, 12 overhead lamps illuminate the billboard. An electronic zipper below the sign repeats the message: "NYC Cops Deserve Better Pay."