The Chief
January 5, 2007

Kelly: Cop Shortage A Matter of Money

Starting Pay 'Unrealistic'

By REUVEN BLAU

While the arbitration process for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association plods along, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly last week blamed the reduced starting pay as the primary reason the department once again fell short of its expanded hiring goals.

MICHAEL J. PALLADINO: 'A defective process.'     
MICHAEL J. PALLADINO: 'A defective process.'  

"I attribute it, quite frankly, to the $25,000 starting salary," Commissioner Kelly told reporters after a Dec. 26 graduation ceremony. "This is the most expensive city in America, the 10th most expensive city in the world. It's just unrealistic to try to attract people over an extended period of time with that salary."

Help on Horizon

The 1,359 new graduates and other police officer candidates, he said, understood that the salary will likely increase once the upcoming arbitration award is issued. "The sooner the better, as far as I'm concerned," Mr. Kelly said, adding that he wasn't privy to the details of the contract negotiations.

The PBA and city were scheduled to meet Dec. 27 to choose an arbitration panel chairperson from a list of nine names presented by the Public Employment Relations Board. The union, however, canceled that conference after objecting to two of the arbitrators, who a decade ago froze cops' pay for two years.

      'UNREALISTIC PAY': Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly Dec. 26 blamed the decreased starting pay for new recruits as the main reason the department once again failed to meet its expanded hiring goals.
 

The Chief-Leader/Pat Arnow

'UNREALISTIC PAY': Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly Dec. 26 blamed the decreased starting pay for new recruits as the main reason the department once again failed to meet its expanded hiring goals.

Mr. Kelly predicted that the new police class set to start in a few days would also fall short of the expanded hiring goals set by Mayor Bloomberg in 2004. "I think we will probably have some challenges with our next class," he said. "I can't predict for certain what that number will be, but it will probably be a number below what we would like to have."

While the reduced starting salary continues to pose a challenge for the NYPD to recruit officers, the department has attracted more than 1,000 candidates to help fill the next class, the latest filing figures suggest.

Tough Keeping Up

The department, however, needs to hire 3,000 new officers each year just to maintain its current headcount of slightly fewer than 37,000 officers. In addition, typically only 1 out of every 10 candidates who apply is actually hired.

In total, 3,733 candidates passed the June 17 Police Officer exam; figures from the Oct. 28 test are not yet available. The NYPD also administered 13 out-of-state exams in 2006, which will likely generate several hundred candidates as well.

In an attempt to boost recruitment efforts, city negotiators have twice offered to raise the starting pay for new cops. PBA President Patrick J. Lynch has soundly rejected those proposals, primarily due to the concessions those deals demanded of new hires in other areas, such as time off.

The Bloomberg administration has maintained that the wage model for uniformed employees was set for this round of bargaining last fall by the Uniformed Firefighters' Association's 50-month deal, which provided raises of 3 percent and 3.15 percent in its last 26 months. The earlier part of that deal replicated the two 5-percent raises the PBA won in arbitration in June 2005 for a two-year period.

Calls City Unreasonable

Mr. Lynch has called the second part of the UFA terms "unacceptable," contending that the increases are lower than the rate of inflation. "If the city complied with the Taylor Law that mandates equal pay for similar work, it is likely that we could have reached a negotiated settlement," he has contended.

Notably, Mr. Kelly blamed the city's longstanding insistence on pattern bargaining as a major reason several of the city's uniformed unions have stretched the pay schedule for new promotees. "I think it's affecting everybody, because what happens is a pattern [that] compacts salaries and it stretches it out six years, seven years; it's just totally unrealistic."

He added, "It just doesn't make sense to take a pattern like that and try to impose it on the other ranks; you have to have more flexibility."

Several uniformed unions have agreed to reduce pay and benefits for new promotees in order to match the pattern set by the PBA's attrition-based arbitration award in June 2005.

Stability Hurts 'Superiors'

A significant portion of the wage hikes for the PBA was offset by the reduction in the pay scale for future hires. But because savings to the city are greater under the PBA deal due to the higher attrition rate among cops, the Bloomberg administration demanded additional savings from the superior officer unions with more stable work forces to even out its costs.

Those unions have contended that the concessions have deterred officers either from signing up for promotion exams or taking the time out to properly study.

"Pattern bargaining is a defective process, and the effects of that defective process are finally starting to take its toll in the NYPD and in other city jobs as well," asserted Michael J. Palladino, president of the Detectives' Endowment Association. "Concession bargaining and pattern bargaining never works out for labor, but in this case it's so bad it's not even working out for management."

City negotiators, however, have long maintained that pattern bargaining enables the city to keep its labor costs consistent and helps budget officials calculate future costs once a single benchmark deal is in place.

The Wages of Attrition

Anthony Garvey, president of the Lieutenants' Benevolent Association, said he believed Mr. Kelly's remarks were "more a comment on concession bargaining."

He continued, "I think what the Commissioner speaks about is that he's not a fan of attrition bargaining. When you do attrition bargaining, you find yourself relinquishing advancements previously made."

As for the PBA negotiations, Mr. Lynch has rejected the city's proposal to raise the starting salary for new officers by roughly $10,000, partly because of the givebacks it requires of future hires in other areas. The union has also argued that the maximum salary for cops needs to be increased beyond the citywide wage pattern in order to help recruit and retain new officers.

"The source of the NYPD's recruiting and retention problem is no mystery: the pay is too low when you join and it's too low when you reach top pay," Mr. Lynch has said.

The DEA and LBA, however, have both agreed to extended 4-year contracts, noting that there has been a 100-year-plus salary parity between cops and Firefighters. An arbitration panel, they have said, will likely insist on maintaining that tradition.

The NYPD's recruitment difficulties come as police forces across the nation have struggled to attract new officers. The NYPD, however, has also had a difficult time persuading officers to take and study for promotion exams.

Kelly Hopeful

Only 644 of the 4,934 cops - 13 percent - who took the January Sergeants' exam passed. That figure was down from the 1,729 out of 7,196 officers - 24 percent - who passed the 2003 exam.

"I think it will work out," Mr. Kelly said last week, commenting on those figures. "I'd like to see as many people as possible apply for the test. I don't think the passing rate will have an effect on it, because we will just give the test more frequently. But I'd like to see more candidates for all of the promotional exams."

Joseph Pollini, an Assistant Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, has said more officers have also decided to seek promotion to Detective. "They get Sergeants' pay at Second Grade and Lieutenants' pay at First Grade and have no supervisor responsibilities," he noted. "More and more people are looking for the more-comfortable position."