The Chief
March 22, 2002

Honoring Moira Smith

PBA to Take 'Men' Out of Union Label

By William Van Auken

MOIRA SMITH: Honoring her sacrifice  

In honor of a female Police Officer who lost her life responding to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association is moving toward a long-delayed decision to render the union's title gender-neutral.

Led by Friends

At last week's delegates' meeting, union representatives from the 13th Precinct in Gramercy Park, where Officer Smith worked, and from the Police Academy, her Police Officers husband's command, put forward a resolution to change the union's name to "Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, Inc."

"In light of the events of Sept. 11, we feel that this would be a tribute in honor of Officer Moira Smith, who was tragically killed on that day, as well as the other 22 officers that were lost that day."

  A LONG TIME COMING: Det. Julia Koniosis, head of the Policewomen's Endowment Association, said she believes making the PBA's name gender-neutral will help convince female cops that the union represents them on an equal plane with male officers.

The letter, addressed to PBA President Patrick J. Lynch, was signed by John Flynn, the Manhattan South Trustee, who is also a delegate from the 13th Precinct, together with two more delegates from the precinct and two from the Police Academy.

Mr. Lynch declared his support for the measure, which is scheduled for a vote by the May delegates' meeting in accordance with the PBA constitution and bylaws.

"I enthusiastically support this motion, and I always have," he told THE CHIEF-LEADER.       

As the candidate of the "Voice of the Blue Line" slate in the hotly contested 1999 PBA election, Mr. Lynch had made the name change part of his election platform.

The incumbent leadership of then-president James "Doc" Savage attempted to steal the insurgent slate's thunder, putting forward a resolution to change Patrolmen's to Police in the union's name at a December 1998 delegates' meeting. The move provoked a bitter and obscenity-laced shouting fest as opponents of the leadership accused it of political pandering.

Both the Housing and Transit police unions had managed to change their names from "Patrolmen's" to "Police" with little or no controversy years before their departments were merged into the NYPD in 1995.

The 21/2-year delay in implementing the Blue Line's campaign pledge drew fire from the Policewomen's Endowment Association, which accused Mr. Lynch of dragging his feet for fear of political opposition within the delegate body.

The PBA leadership responded that it was too busy with the trials of officers charged in connection with the Amadou Diallo shooting and the Abner Louima stationhouse assault, and subsequently with the union's contract dispute, to deal with the matter. It also asserted that it wanted to take up the name change as part of a broader revamping of its bylaws.

'Change the Mindset'

"It's a nice tribute to Moira, but it was going to be changed, even before 9/11," said Mr. Flynn. "It was really something that we've been wanting to do for a while, but our main focus has been on the contract."

"They said they were working on it, but they weren't," said Det. Julia Koniosis, president of the Policewomen's Endowment Association. The organization, she said, had sent petitions to the PBA last year asking for the implementation of the name change but received no reply.

"Hopefully this will help change the mindset, and women will feel that at least there's a perception that they're better represented," said the PEA leader. The fact remains, she noted, that there are no female members on any of the police unions' executive boards.

"Since Sept.11 you see in the media all the time references to 'firemen' and policemen;' they're so 'politically correct about everything else, but not that," said Detective Koniosis. "Moira Smith died as a Police Officer; she didn't die as a patrolman."