The Chief
February 17, 2006

NYPD Cop Records Must Go to PA P.D.

City Appeal Stays Ruling

By REUVEN BLAU

A Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Feb. 9 ordered the NYPD to release the personnel records of 35 of its officers to the Port Authority Police Department.

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association sued the NYPD, charging that it was purposely withholding the information in an attempt to prevent the officers from transferring to the better-paying Port Authority.

Patrick Lynch    
PATRICK J. LYNCH: City getting 'underhanded.'  

PBA: Desperate Ploy

"The city can't hire enough police officers and can't honestly keep the ones they have from leaving for better opportunities, so they resort to underhanded tactics like refusing to share the personnel information," charged Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam ordered both sides back to court March 3 for further arguments. The release of the records was stayed when the city indicated it would appeal.

The officers stand to earn 57 percent more by working for the PA, which has a maximum salary of $94,000 after five years on the job. NYPD cops currently receive $59,588 after 5-1/2 years.

During the Feb. 8 hearing, city attorneys contended that the officers could obtain some of the personnel information via Freedom of Information Law requests. They also claimed the NYPD changed its policy regarding releasing personnel files in 2003 as a way to avoid legal liability. "The Police Department doesn't have a request from the Port Authority saying we don't have what we need," added city attorney Cindy Switzer.

The officers' union attorneys, however, maintained that the NYPD has refused to release key records which the Port Authority uses to check the veracity of the officers' interview responses. Other agencies, they noted, often make the officers take a polygraph test.

    Patrick Lynch
  The Chief-Leader/Pat Arnow

'A MALICIOUS PLOY': April Epps, who is seeking to transfer to the Port Authority Police Department because of its superior pay structure, said the NYPD's effort to withhold personnel records requested by the smaller department was 'a ploy to prevent people from leaving.'

As for getting the information through FOIL requests, PBA attorney Richard Steer said, "The Port Authority doesn't want some copy that the officer gets." He contended that immediate relief was necessary because one of the officers was going to turn 35 in August, which would bar him from joining the PA.

"I will be a casualty," said the veteran officer, who asked to remain anonymous, after the hearing. "There is a sense of urgency; the chances of me getting into the first academy class are reduced the longer this delays."

Police Officer James Lamur, a party to the suit, said he decided to transfer because he can't afford to live in the city and support his growing family under the current NYPD salary structure. "I bleed for this city everyday," he continued. "It's heartbreaking to have to leave. If we would receive compensation I would definitely stay."

Officer Lamur, who has a master's degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, noted that the department does not offer more pay for officers who have earned a higher education.

'City Not Competitive'

"It's really very simple," Mr. Lynch said. "The best people go to the highest bidder, and New York City is not competitive in police pay."

He added, "Fix it, or the NYPD will wind up with nothing but people who had no other options than to become NYPD cops and that will not serve the city well for the future."

Officer Lamur said the department withholding his personnel file was "inhumane" and charged "the department doesn't really care about us."

Police Officer April Epps, who is also trying to transfer, agreed. "It's very malicious," she contended. "I think it's an intentional ploy to prevent people from leaving."