The Chief

June 23, 2000

 

Cops Demand Cash Plus Some Respect

By William Van Auken

 
The Chief-Leader/Mark Hermann
 
A TWIN DOSE OF REALITY: With Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch standing to his left, Police Officer Chris Ballou presents two compelling reasons, 4-month-old sons Matt and Ryan, why he needs a substantial raise under the union's next contract.    

A major salary increase to compensate for years of  "zeroes" and respect for the daily dangers their jobs entail were the twin demands raised by thousands of off-duty cops who descended on Battery Park for a Patrolmen's Benevolent Association-sponsored "Police Solidarity Day."

"We're standing here as proud New York City Police Officers at a time when it's not popular to say you're a cop," PBA President Patrick Lynch told the tightly packed crowd.

'We've Spilled Our Blood!'

Mr. Lynch concentrated his fire on "detractors," whom he accused of ignoring the deadly hazards of a police officer's job and the contribution made by cops in freeing the city's population from fear of crime.

"We have spilled our blood for this job and for this city," said the PBA president. "There are real men and women who gave their lives for this job and they deserve respect."

Before the speech, PBA officials distributed signs and balloons to cops and scattered family members, while one man waded through their ranks doing a brisk business in bumper stickers emblazoned with a variation of the "Free Mumia" slogan, popularized by supporters of Mumia Abu Jamal, who was convicted of killing a Philadelphia cop. "Free" was crossed out and the word "Fry" was substituted.

"Where are the protests for New York City Police Officers who lost their lives?" asked Mr. Lynch. "Where are the prayer vigils for their families?"

'Safe Because of You'

The police union leader assured his members that they have large reservoirs of sympathy among the city's working-class population. "Our support comes from the men and women in their apartments who pass us on our posts at 5 a.m. as they go to their jobs and pass us again on their way home," he said. "They know that they are safe because of you."

 
 
The Chief-Leader/Mark Hermann
   
'ALL WE WANT IS OUR FAIR SHARE': Off-duty cops in Battery Park make clear that they won't accept a contract that includes a partial wage freeze similar to their about-to-expire five-year pact.

Mr. Lynch also said that Police Officers deserved the credit for the city's increased tax revenues, particularly the growth of tourism. "We made this city great," he declared. "That money in the city's coffers is your money."

"No one wants to take this  job, and many don't want to stay," Mr. Lynch remarked. "The reason for that is $350 a week," the starting take-home pay of a cop. "We want money; we deserve a raise."

Thanking his members for attending, Mr. Lynch said he knew that they had to get back to their families or "slide behind the wheel of your radio car." In reply, a cop shouted from the crowd, "It's time to get back to my second job."

The June 13 rally was the largest turnout organized by the PBA since a controversial 1992 demonstration at City Hall backfired on the police union, then led by Phil Caruso, solidifying City Council support for creating the Civilian Complaint Review Board that the raucous demonstration was meant to oppose.

That event of eight years ago was briefly recalled when Detectives' Endowment Association President Thomas J. Scotto told the rally that  "we're all going up to the City Council" after the rally to witness the passage of home-rule resolutions approving pension improvements that will increase cops' take-home pay.

Returning to the mike, Mr. Scotto cautioned the crowd, "We don't want you to come to City Hall." The remark provoked laughter and one cop shouted out, "Yeah, we got scammed into doing that once."

Correction Officers' Benevolent Association President Norman Seabrook, the DEA president explained later, had passed him a note warning, "These guys may  "think you want them to go up there."

Leaders of superior officer unions sought to warm up the audience for Mr. Lynch, stressing that in this round of bargaining they would remain united with the PBA and, in alliance with the other uniformed services and civilian unions, win substantial raises.

"Paddy's going to deliver for all of us," said Lieutenants' Benevolent Association President Tony Garvey.

There were signs, however, that solidarity between PBA members and the unions rep- resenting their supervisors has its limits. As Captains' Endowment Association President John F. Driscoll took the mike, a group of cops began chanting "COMPSTAT sucks!" "I agree with you," responded  the CEA leader.

Similarly, Sergeants' Benevolent Association President Bernard Pound's remarks were interrupted by a chant of "No More CDs (Command Disciplines)!"

Schwarz's Wife Speaks

Also addressing the rally  was Andra Schwarz, who said her husband, Officer Charles Schwarz, was wrongfully convicted in connection with the August 1997 assault on Abner Louima in the 70th Precinct bathroom.

Rank-and-file cops at the rally echoed the rally's two themes - raises and respect - though not always in the same order.

"A raise would help everybody," said one cop from the Midtown South precinct, who asked that his name not be used. "But for me, it's not the most important thing. I could live with the money if I felt the department and the community were behind us."

The cop, who joined the department six and a half years ago, said he was single and therefore faced less financial pressure than most of his fellow officers.

"People are upset because we're constantly being criticized in the media and the community hates us, even though the stats show we're doing a better job than ever,"

he said. "No one stands up for cops, so I guess we've just got to stand up for ourselves.  It's like being in a boxing match where you're getting pummeled and no one's punching back."

"I love being a cop in New York City," said the Midtown South officer. He added, how- ever, that he had little confidence in the NYPD's defending cops who are wrongly accused. "It's easier to destroy one guy's life than it is to stand up to pressure," he said.

For Andy Burns, a 13-year veteran from the 25th Precinct in East Harlem, money was unquestionably the key issue. "My father raised seven kids on a police salary," he said. "There's no way I could do that."

With one child and another on the way, he said he is forced like many other cops to work a second job to make ends meet. "It puts a lot of stress on your family life," he said. "I've got a 16-month-old daughter and I barely see her."

In the early '90s, he said, he was offered a job as a police officer in Rockland County, but turned it down. "My ties are here," he explained. "My father spent 36 years as a Police Officer and my brother works for the department." At the time, NYPD and Rockland County police salaries were on a par, but city salaries have since fallen far behind.