The Chief
November 26, 2004

PBA: NYPD Fudges Its Hiring Numbers

Says Pay’s a Drawback

By Mark Daly

The Police Department is hiding a retention problem by revising its hiring projections downward, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association charged as arbitration hearings began in the union’s stalled contract talks with the city.

In an interview following the Nov. 16 start of an expected 10 hearings through mid-December, Mr. Lynch said the union had presented evidence to the three-member arbitration panel that NYPD personnel officials adjusted their hiring goals to match their candidate pool after experiencing a shortfall of qualified candidates.

“Keep Coming Up Short’

“They project what they want to hire, then they don’t meet that number. When they realize they’re not going to meet the numbers they reduce their expectations,” said Mr. Lynch, who blamed low officer salaries for the recruiting problems.

An NYPD spokesman was not immediately available for comment, but the department announced a dramatic upward swing in recruitment earlier this month. The department’s top recruiting official said the city had tested 32,000 Police Officer candidates this year, the most since 1993. Last year, the city tested 8,000 candidates.

The union did not provide additional details of its findings by presstime. During its contentious contract talks over the past two years, PBA officials have pointed to various projected attrition rates in the NYPD to support their call for higher wages.

The union also has said the city’s struggle to maintain force strength can be seen in the size of recent academy classes. The department has hired 4,000 officers in the last three years, even as Mayor Bloomberg’s budget cuts have shrunk the size of the uniformed force by some 2,000 officers. The PBA says many officers have begun to leave in mid-career to seek higher-paying jobs in the suburbs.

Hiring 3,000 in ‘05

The NYPD will need this year’s larger pool of recruits to fill future vacancies, which are expected to increase. The NYPD expects to hire 3,000 recruits next year, beginning with 1,600 in January. The City Council predicts the department will need to match that hiring rate for the next several years to remain at its current size of roughly 35,000 officers.

In its arguments before the arbitration panel, the PBA contends that the city’s salary offer of 5 percent over three years will be insufficient to attract and retain officers. The city has rejected the union’s demand for raised totaling more than 35 percent over two years, calling it unaffordable.

This is the second round of arbitration hearings for the PBA contract to be held under the auspices of the state Public Employment Relations Board. Mr. Lynch said the new round has allowed the union to show how its earlier arguments have proven correct.

During the last round, which took place in the wake of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks, the city argued that its financial difficulties precluded an award beyond the bargaining pattern set in talks with other uniformed unions shortly before Sept. 11, 2001. The PBA took the position that the city’s finances would soon recover from the attacks.

Back in the Chips

The PBA was right, Mr. Lynch said. “We said downtown would recover, that it would come back, and it has. The city has revised its budget projections to show a surplus.”

The city will see a $354 million surplus by the end of next June, which will be put into a budget stabilization fund, according to the city’s October financial update.

The Office of Management and Budget is projecting deficits of $2.9 billion in 2006 and $4.6 billion in 2007.

The three-member panel, chaired by veteran arbitrator Eric Schmertz, has the power to craft a binding two-year award for the PBA’s 22,000 members. To do so, the panel must parse through many issues left unresolved at the bargaining table, including Mayor Bloomberg’s offer to provide greater raises to cops in return for contract changes that will save the city money.

In June, the city proposed six pay scenarios accompanied by various contract givebacks, including scheduling officers for shorter shifts so that they work more days per year and a proposal to create a new pension tier with limited benefits for future employees.

Eye on PA Pay Levels

The union is seeking a contract patterned after the Port Authority receives $75,378 a year, about 30 percent more that the top rate of $57,793 in the NYPD, according to the union. The figures don’t include overtime pay.

The arbitration panel will meet once or twice a week through mid-December to hear arguments from either side in the dispute. The panel’s other two members, both attorneys, are well-versed in the issue: the city’s representative, Carol O’Blenes, and the union’s representative, Jay Waks, each presented their side’s case before the first PERB arbitration panel two years ago.