The Chief
July 6, 2001

Cop 'Superiors' Post-'88 VSF Bill is Passed

Widows' COLA Is Also Bound For Pataki's Desk

By William Van Auken

The city's five police unions racked up a series of legislative victories in Albany last week.

Included in the police benefits package pushed through the State Assembly and Senate was a bill that equalizes Variable Supplements Fund-derived payments for superior officers hired after June 1988, legislation providing increases retirement credits for cops who stay on the force after 30 years and another piece that will provide a cost-of-living boost to widows of officers who died in the line of duty.

Need Governor's Okay

Governor Pataki must sign the bills before they become law.

The police unions have touted the legislation lifting the Tier 2 30-year cap as a means of retaining experienced cops, particularly in the department's top ranks. The change would also apply to firefighters.

"We're in an era where the department can't retain police officers," said Captains' Endowment Association President John F. Driscoll, "You're stupid to stay until 30 years really, because you're not earning anything more."

Mr. Driscoll said that the 30-year cap has affected even more of his members since last year's passage of the military buyback bill, which allowed many of the Vietnam War era veterans in the NYPD's senior ranks to claim pension credit for their military service.

"As people start getting close to 30 years, they're leaving, thinking that it makes more sense to get out while they're more marketable for another job," he said.

A piece of legislation that the city has opposed as an end run around the collective bargaining process would allow unions representing officers in the rank of Detective and above to equalize Variable Supplements Fund-derived benefits for their members hired after June 30, 1988.

While the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and the two firefighter unions achieved equalization for their members during earlier rounds of bargaining, talks with the four NYPD superior officer unions broke down over what they claimed was an inequitable cost placed on the item.

Under the present schedule, superior officers hired prior to July 1988 currently received $9,000 in VSF-derived benefits upon retirement, with the amount climbing by $500 a year to cap at $12,000 in 2008 and thereafter.

Steep Drop-Off

Those hired after that date, however, would receive VSF payments of $2,500 upon retirement, with the $500 annual increments kicking in only after they leave active service.

The legislation would compel the city to provide the equalization benefit at a cost of 23 percent of total compensation, the same amount paid by the Uniformed Fire Officers' Association in the last round of bargaining.

A key legislative measure sought by the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association also sailed through both houses of the State Legislature, It would amend current regulations to allow cops to borrow up to 90 percent of the accumulated member contribution reserves - instead of the present 75 percent - at a low interest rate.

"Police Officers don't have a contract and are having a hard time making ends meet, so this is important for them," said the PBA's Albany lobbyist John Poklemba.

Another measure sought by the PBA, which would exempt cops from paying tolls to the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority when driving into the city, was passed by the Senate, but is stuck in the State Assembly's Ways and Means Committee. The union is hopeful for further action when the Assembly reconvenes later this month.

Finally, the Legislature passed a cost-of-living adjustment bill for all police and firefighter line-of-duty widows or widowers statewide. There has been no such adjustment since 1978-79. Lawmakers recognized that the 3-percent adjustment for 2001-02 "does not totally cover the present inflation spiral, but it at least provides some increased relief for the widows and widowers of New York's bravest citizens. In the past, these brave families have faced a poverty-stricken existence."

Under legislative rules, Governor Pataki has until Dec. 31 to either enact or veto the measures, In hopes that he will look kindly upon their efforts in Albany, the police unions are increasingly focusing their attention on the 2002 gubernatorial race, The PBA sponsored a $250-a-plate fund-raiser for the Governor at a South Street Seaport restaurant June 28.