The Chief
March 15, 2002

72 Leave NYPD To Join Port Authority

Highlights Pay Gap

By William Van Auken

Marking the biggest single exodus of police officers in the NYPD's history, 72 city cops were sworn in last week as members of the Port Authority Police Department.

"I wish them well," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly when asked about the defections. He quickly added, "I never like to see anyone leave who hasn't reached retirement."

807 Dropouts in '01

Last year there were 807 such resignations, on top of more that 3,000 retirements. Police union officials say that many of those who left did so to take higher paying jobs elsewhere.

"The police officers who went to the Port Authority did so for strictly monetary reasons," said Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch. "They know they'll be paid $20,000 more than in the New York City Police Department for patrolling the same corners and streets that a city police officer patrols."

The pay disparity between the NYPD and surrounding jurisdictions, including the Port Authority Police Department, figures prominently in the arguments that the PBA will present next week during the first in a series of binding arbitration sessions with the city before a panel selected under the auspices of the state Public Employment Relations Board.

"We're facing a crisis situation in terms of recruitment and retention," said the PBA leader. "We're losing our best and brightest and other departments are getting the benefit of NYPD training."

While the difference in starting pay at the two agencies is small — $31,305 in the NYPD and $32,361 at the Port Authority — the gap widens sharply with longevity adjustments. After five years on the job, city cops make $52,268, while their counterparts at the Port Authority earn $70,344.

The Port Authority is seeking to rebuild its Police Department after losing 37 of its police officers in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks, the largest one-day death toll for any law-enforcement agency in U.S. history. The agency is using a $128 million grant from the Federal Government to beef up its patrol strength well beyond pre-Sept. 11 levels. One official said it will ultimately double the size of the force, which currently has approximately 1,000 officers.

The NYPD members were selected from a hiring list established through a 1998 exam. The Port Authority picked some 1,000 names off the list and then sent out questionnaires to determine candidates' law-enforcement experience.

Those hired all have police experience and will graduate from the Port Authority Police Academy in just eight weeks, barely one-third the length of the normal class. The Port Authority department is anxious to get new officers on patrol quickly in order to relieve its own cops, who have been working six-day, 12-hour shifts since Sept. 11.

The agency is planning to hire another class immediately after the current recruits graduate in May, followed by a third class in October.

"Hopefully, a lot of eyes were opened up by Sept. 11," said Port Authority President Gus Danese, who said that the agency needed to beef up its police force considerably.

Can Move Pension

In addition to the higher salaries, Mr. Danese said that the Port Authority Police Department was a pool of attraction in part because NYPD cops can transfer their pension credits, allowing a city cop with five years on the job to retire after working 15 more years at the Port Authority. Cops at the Port Authority are members of the New York State Police and Fire Pension Fund.

Mr. Danese said that an additional advantage enjoyed by his members is that they do not have to pay employee pension contributions.

"It's a great career move for those who come in," said the police union leader, adding that roughly half of the most recent Port Authority Police Academy classes had been made up of NYPD alumni.

"I hope that someday, sooner rather than later, the city recognizes what they have as far as police officers and gives them the same pay as the Port Authority and Nassau County," said Mr. Danese. "That these guys do the job they do for that kind of money is really unconscionable."