The Chief
January 24, 2003

Mayor Retreats From Threat Of Police Layoffs

PBA Resolves 1.5% Issue, Demands New Pay Talks

By Mark Daly

Mayor Bloomberg Jan. 16 backed away from his previous warning that the city might have to lay off police officers to balance its budget, but he called for cops to be more productive to avoid future job cuts.

“My hope is that with the 3 percent that we’ve asked the Police Department to cut, just with attrition and good management, we can avoid layoffs,” the Mayor said to reporters. “If we were not to get productivity enhancements down the road, we’d have to look at everything.”

Puts Onus on PBA

In remarks aimed at the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Mr. Bloomberg said improving productivity was the only way police officers could hope to get a wage increase in the current round of contract talks. He signaled he would revive the city’s demand to cut cop’s tours of duty by 20 minutes and require them to work 10 additional tours, or appearances, a year.

PBA President Patrick J. Lynch called the Mayor’s new stance on layoffs “good news for a city that is already dangerously low on police officers.”

In an interview with THE CHIEF-LEADER, Mr. Lynch offered his counterproposal on productivity: have cops work 10-hour tours, which would extend coverage while requiring fewer appearances per year.

Three days before the Mayor’s comments, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller ruled out layoffs as an option in the city’s budget planning.

‘Unnecessary, Unwanted’

“I think that layoffs are unnecessary and also undesirable and that we have to find other ways to make savings,” said Mr. Miller, whose backing is essential to pass a city budget.

“He’s absolutely right,” Mr. Lynch said, arguing that the NYPD’s attrition rate seemed to be taking care of the spending problem. Nearly 4,000 officers have retired or left for other jobs in the past two years, he said.

With new contract talks yet to begin, city cops are working under the terms of an arbitration award issued in September. It provided 10 percent in retroactive raises over a two-year period that ran through last July.

Last week the PBA announced it had reached an agreement with the city on how to spend 1.5 percent in unit bargaining funds the arbitration panel had set aside for salary enhancements.

The agreement will raise Police Officers’ starting pay to $36,878, boost salaries for officers in their first five years on the job, and increase the longevity payments for most veterans by $500.

The arbitration panel had considered changing officer’s tours along the lines suggested by the city in order to boost salaries by another 4.5 percent, while requiring 241 appearances a year. It abandoned the idea after an outcry from the PBA that included a massive rally by cops and firefighters in Times Square.

“I don’t think, going forward, that will continue,” the Mayor said, Jan. 17. “It can’t continue if the police officers are ever going to get paid more.”

Under the state Public Officers Law, cops and firefighters are required to be scheduled for 2,088 hours annually. That mandate includes hours that will be used for vacation and other days off under their contract.

Mr. Lynch argued that “modern” police departments are already divvying up those hours in longer tours. “It gives the Commissioner more police officers on the street, with less appearances per year,” he said.

The New York State Police is the latest force to switch to 12-hour tours, under an arbitration award issued in December.

Beginning April 1, all troopers statewide will work 12-hour tours, for a total of 42 more hours a year. Their annual appearances will drop by 66, to 182. The troopers’ pay will increase proportionally with the additional hours, said Daniel M. DeFedericis, the president of the State Troopers Police Benevolent Associations.

Mutual Benefits

“It’s a win-win situation,” Mr. DeFedericis said, since the state can deploy troopers for more hours without having to hire additional officers and incur increased health insurance costs.

In Nassau County, the introduction of 12-hour tours in 1995 means cops now make around 150 appearances a year, more than one-third fewer than city cops.

Sick-leave use has declined 66 percent since the introduction of longer tours, according to Nassau County Police Benevolent Association President Gary de la Raba.

He attributes the decline to the switch to a standard schedule. “You don’t have guys working around the clock anymore,” he said.

The chances for a quick agreement between the city and the PBA on the tour issue do not look promising: It took five months to resolve the question of how to spend the 1.5 percent set aside by the arbitrators. Mr. Bloomberg wanted to use the money to raise starting salaries, but the PBA insisted that veteran cops get a share.

Even Apportionment

The agreement splits the funding nearly down the middle between new cops and veterans said PBA spokesman Al O’Leary. “We were able to satisfy both, Mr. Lynch said.

Labor Relations Commissioner James F. Hanley Jan. 16 declined to comment on the agreement, saying the city was still waiting to receive a signed copy of it. He also refused to discuss the city’s bargaining demands.

Mr. Hanley said the PBA sent the city a “pro-forma” letter in September expressing its willingness to talk. “We haven’t heard from them in months,” he added.

“The union is always willing to begin bargaining with the city, but unfortunately, the city isn’t willing,” Mr. Lynch countered.

Under the agreement for the 1.5 percent in funds, the starting salary for Police Officers will increase by $2,364 over the current amount, which already includes the 10-percent raise awarded in September.

Officers beginning their second year will get a $1,954 increase, while those in their third and fourth years will see an extra $1,500. Officers in their fifth year will get $1,155 to reach base pay of $43,107.

Longevity Gains

For veteran cops, the longevity differential in the sixth year will rise by $500 to reach $3,745, resulting in a total salary of $57,793. The longevity differential in the 11th and 16th years will increase by $500, and the differential in the 21st year will increase by $525.

As Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly joined other city agency heads in submitting confidential plans for additional budget cuts last week, the PBA signed on to a proposal by several state and local legislators to reverse the NYPD by re-introducing the “Safe Streets, Safe City” program of the early 1990’s.

The original “Safe Streets, Safe City” program used an income tax surcharge to boost the hiring of city cops. It also required the city to retain a minimum number of officers.

Council Member Hiram Monserrate, a former Police Officer, joined state legislators Jan. to call for a new version of the program. Mr. Lynch said the union would assist in lobbying Albany for dedicated funding for the NYPD.

Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Miller do not appear to support the resurrection of “Safe Streets, Safe City,” however, which all but kills its chances in the State Legislature.

Council Member Peter Vallone Jr. the head of the Public Safety Committee, said the “Safe Streets” coalition could count him out. “I don’t think at this point New York City is realistically looking for any assistance from Albany to help us with our police force,” he said. “I believe that within the current budget we can ensure Safe Streets, Safe City levels of 38,310 officers.

Mayor Bloomberg’s budget plan calls for the NYPD to reach a uniformed headcount by July of 37,210, the same as it had in 1996.