The Chief
May 26, 2006

City Offers PBA $8G Boost In Starting Salary

Union Calls Pay Offer To Vets, Givebacks Unacceptable

By REUVEN BLAU

In an effort to enhance the NYPD's struggling recruitment efforts, the Bloomberg administration May 18 offered to raise the starting annual salary for new officers to $37,929, from $28,900, part of which would be financed by cutting vacation days and leave time for those cops.

Mayor Bloomberg  
MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Trying to shift the onus.    

The two-year offer to the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association also includes giving incumbent officers salary increases of 3 percent and 3.15 percent, financial terms similar to those already negotiated by the unions representing Detectives, Sanitation Workers, and Firefighters.

Public-Relations Battle

The proposal allows Mayor Bloomberg to place the onus on the PBA, which has blasted the city for agreeing to drastically reduce the starting pay as part of a contract arbitration award last June. The union has claimed that some of its new recruits have been forced to apply for food stamps as a result, a charge the city denies.

But the PBA scoffed at the offer, which would cover the period from Aug. 1, 2004, through July 31, 2006, partly because of the givebacks it requires of future hires in other areas. "Once again the city expects police officers to pay for their own raises while failing to close the gap at all levels of salary between New York City police and surrounding communities - from entry level to critical top pay," said PBA President Patrick J. Lynch in a statement issued several hours after the proposal was made public.

    Patrick J. Lynch
  PATRICK J. LYNCH: 'Won't fund own raises.'

During his weekly radio show on WABC-AM, Mayor Bloomberg called the PBA's leaders "a little bit duplicitous" for criticizing the salary structure. "They were very critical of not paying a lot of money for the newer recruits, even though they engineered it," Mr. Bloomberg said. Mr. Lynch countered, "Bloomberg is using a salesman's theory that if you repeat a lie enough, people will believe it."

According to sources, the PBA has requested a substantial amount of information from the city dealing with NYPD operations, which is one sign that the union could be preparing to go to arbitration once again. But the Public Employment Relations Board arbitration hearings have traditionally been lengthy and a contract through that route could be a year away.

Raymond W. Kelly  
RAYMOND W. KELLY: Starting pay hurts NYPD.    

The NYPD has concerns about such a delay because it has had a difficult time attracting new officers under the sharply reduced pay structure as it seeks to hire 1,600 officers in July to help patrol high-crime areas.

Test Filing Down 26%

The number of applicants for the June 17 exam was down 26 percent compared to last year's test held during the same period, city officials noted last week. According to the NYPD, approximately 29,193 applied for the test last year, but only 21,493 applied for next month's exam.

Those figures were compounded by a 31-percent decrease in applicants for the previous test held in February compared to the exam held last year during the same period.

Considering that many applicants never actually take the test and that a significant number of people fail the exam or the subsequent background investigation, the department may not have enough available candidates to meet its hiring goals.

    Martin Horn
  MARTIN HORN: Correction making do.

Some police union officials have asserted that the department planned to hire more cops for the January class of recruits but lacked the necessary number of qualified applicants. In addition, the PBA has charged that the department dropped its 2.0 college grade-point-average requirement to fill that class, a contention the NYPD emphatically denies.

Kelly's Laments

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has called the $25,100 pay for the first six months "a disgrace" and has said it is making it difficult for the NYPD to attract the "people that we need to protect the city from terrorism and to continue to suppress crime." Based on the city's latest offer, new cops' salaries would rise to $36,123, from $25,100, for their first six months on the job, and then go to $39,735, up from $32,700. Those raises would be financed by the annual loss of 10 vacation days, six holidays, and $100 toward new hires' annuity funds until they reach maximum pay after 5-1/2 years on the job.

New recruits presently receive 20 vacation days and 11 holidays a year. Most officers are required to work during holidays and receive additional compensation for those days.

But Mr. Lynch wasn't amenable to the amended terms, which include raising maximum pay to $63,309, up from $59,588. "This offer fails to consider the danger that we face above and beyond virtually any other municipal employee despite the Taylor Law's requirement to consider job risks in setting wages," he said.

Start Near the Bottom

According to www.Policepay.net, the NYPD's $28,900 annual starting salary ranks 159th in the country, below most surrounding jurisdictions.

The offer, however, may place pressure on the PBA, whose members have seen Detectives and some of their counterparts in other departments receive similar raises. "It depends on the way their members think," said one labor source, referring to cops. "They may think that the Fire Department and other unions did it, so why not us? But God knows what their expectations are."

The city's recruitment problems as a result of reduced starting salaries have extended beyond the NYPD, based on the filing figures from the latest exam leading to Correction Officer jobs. According to the Correction Department, only 1,624 passed the Jan. 7 test. In contrast, 2,541 passed the June 25, 2005 exam.

"I think it means we have to try harder," Correction Commissioner Martin F. Horn said during a phone interview last week. "We have to do a better job at selling Correction Officer as a career."

'Filling Our Classes'

But he maintained that the department had attracted enough candidates to fill vacancies due to attrition. "We've been able to fill each of our classes," he asserted. The DOC is seeking to hire at least 800 officers this year, an agency spokesman has said. Mr. Horn highlighted the fringe benefits of the job, including its pension, sick days, and opportunities for overtime. He noted that some veteran officers received close to $100,000 last year with overtime. "The value of the package is worth way more," he said.

Recruiting law-enforcement officers has become a nationwide problem, according to several published reports. "A number of people ordinarily eligible to take the exams are also serving in the armed forces," said Norman Seabrook, the president of the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association.

According to Mr. Seabrook, the new $28,900 starting salary has also discouraged some potential candidates. But Mr. Horn maintained the department was struggling to recruit new officers before the latest contract. "Our problem is not with the starting salary," he said. "Our problem is that it's a competitive market place and a booming economy."

Mr. Seabrook urged Mssrs. Kelly and Horn to lobby the Mayor to increase the pay for new hires. "They should be speaking to the Mayor," he remarked. "How do they get to a salary that represents what we want to portray to the public as the Finest, Boldest, and Bravest?"

The union president also said he would lobby the City Council to allocate additional funds for higher salaries. "I believe that it's incumbent upon the City Council to allocate X amount of dollars for increases that are needed to provide the services in the city of New York," he commented.

It's not clear how the Council could provide funds to boost pay without impinging on the Mayor's powers, however.