The Chief
February 2, 2007

PBA: 'Max' Pay Too Minimal To Retain Officers

Cites High Resignation Rate Before Cops Wrap 5th Year

By REUVEN BLAU

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association Jan. 24 charged that the Bloomberg administration is wasting millions of dollars recruiting and training thousands of officers who leave within their first five years on the job for higher-paying police forces.

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch told reporters Jan. 24 that the Bloomberg administration has wasted $176 million to replace the thousands of officers who have left within their first five years on the job to join higher-paying police forces.     

The Chief-Leader/Pat Arnow

POINTING TO A PAY PROBLEM: Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch told reporters Jan. 24 that the Bloomberg administration has wasted $176 million to replace the thousands of officers who have left within their first five years on the job to join higher-paying police forces.

 

PBA President Patrick J. Lynch once again asserted that the city must increase the maximum salary of $59,588 after 5-1/2 years in order to stem the "hemorrhaging" of young officers. "That's the answer to our severe problem of recruitment and retention," he said during a press conference at the union's lower Manhattan office. "Pay at top pay professional salaries like the departments that surround us."

902 Early Exits in '06

According to the PBA, 902 cops left the department in 2006 before working the five years required for a pension to vest. By comparison, 159 such officers quit in 1991, the union said. "These are significant numbers," Mr. Lynch contended. "These are Police Officers the city spends money to retain ... and they choose to get a police paycheck wearing another uniform in another city."

The union president said that the low pay has caused 1,769 newly hired cops to leave over the past two years. Those officers could staff nearly a dozen precincts, Mr. Lynch noted, adding "The NYPD and the City of New York have a serious problem."

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, however, told the City Council last week that the NYPD experienced a non-retirement attrition rate of 2.3 percent last year. "Any major company would like to have an attrition rate that low," he remarked.

But critics of the department have noted that the NYPD's overall attrition rate is more than 8 percent. In all, 3,353 left the NYPD in calendar year 2006, according to the department. Of those officers, 891 resigned, 20 were fired and the others retired, the NYPD said.

Retirement Rate Steady

Paul J. Browne, the department's chief spokesman, noted that most veteran cops retire when they are eligible to receive their full pensions after 20 years of service. "Police Officers who reached their 20th year in 2006 retired at a rate of 79 percent, just one percent lower than the historically anticipated 80 percent," he said in an e-mail. "That's been the standard retirement rate for decades."

By contrast, the retirement rate drops to roughly 60 percent for Sergeants and Lieutenants, and decreases even further to 14 percent for Captains and higher ranks, based on NYPD figures since 2001.

As for the large number of Police Officer retirements, Mr. Browne said that they were directly related to the increased hiring in the mid-1980s. "That's when the city began to make up for the police layoffs and job freezes of the mid-'70s fiscal crisis," he stated.

Others, however, have charged that comparing the NYPD's 2.3 resignation attrition rate to private-sector companies' higher figures makes no sense. They point out that individuals traditionally choose careers in the public-sector for the job security, as opposed to private company workers who routinely switch firms for better pay.

Pressure on Academy

Concerning the recent retirement figures, Mr. Browne acknowledged that the large number of officers leaving has put "tremendous demand on recruitment and the academy." But he added, "The silver lining has been the annual graduation of about 3,000 new officers over the last several years."

Two thirds of the cops in each of those classes, he continued, have been assigned to high-crime areas as part of the department's Operation Impact program. That plan has helped the NYPD drive crime down by 30 percent in those areas, Mr. Browne said.

The NYPD, however, has had a difficult time filling the last two classes, and is currently 1,000 officers short of its hiring goals. The department has also conceded that there was an increase in the number of individuals who left its last Police Academy class. Most of those new recruits cited the decreased starting salary of $25,100 during their first six months as the primary reason for leaving the academy, Mr. Kelly has said.

An Ongoing Problem

The pay issue - which Mr. Kelly last week called "bizarre" and has labeled a "disgrace" in the past - continues to be a problem for the latest class of recruits, who were sworn in Jan 10.

Twelve days into the training, 63 recruits have already left, the NYPD said. But Mr. Browne noted that the department last week added 165 new recruits to the class. The new recruits included officers who became 21 years old after the initial swearing-in or whose college transcript, driver's license, or other required items were not provided until after the class was inducted. "This is standard procedure," Mr. Browne said.

It costs roughly $100,000 to recruit and retain new officers, according to the PBA. That money is wasted when a new cop leaves to another department, Mr. Lynch contended. "The estimated $176 million used to recruit and train the officers who quit could have been put to much better use by paying a competitive salary that would have kept most of those experienced officers patrolling the streets," he argued. "Solve the problem by paying us a professional salary like the Taylor Law dictates."

Mayor Bloomberg told reporters that the PBA was responsible for the low starting salary. Asked shortly after Mr. Lynch's press conference about Mr. Kelly's describing entry-level pay as "bizarre," the Mayor replied, "Is that news? Commissioner Kelly has said that for a long time. So have I. Call the PBA. They're the ones that wanted that," referring to the union's position in their 2005 arbitration battle. "They chose moving monies from the people who were joining the union to people who had been there for a long time."

Takes Shot At PBA

The Mayor escalated his criticism of the union when the issue arose again the following day during his budget press conference, where he announced that the city was likely to end the fiscal year in June with a $3.9 billion surplus. He noted that the city beginning in May last year made two offers to the union that would have raised starting salary by about $10,000, although new officers would have been required to accept reductions in leave time and some differential pay.

"I think the Police Officers are terribly served by a union that refuses to sit down at the table and bargain," Mr. Bloomberg said, with Mr. Kelly looking on from the front row of the City Hall Blue Room.

A quick resolution to the conflict appears increasingly unlikely, as the PBA has rejected a list of arbitrators, objecting to two who a decade ago froze cops' pay for two years to make a PBA salary award conform to a pattern set by other uniformed unions.

PBA Focuses on Max

The PBA is seeking a significant increase in its maximum salary of $59,588. In contrast, it said, the basic maximum salary for three competing police forces is: the New York State Division of Police, $75,678; Nassau Police Department, $92,432; and the Suffolk County Police Department, $94,417.

The Bloomberg administration has maintained that the wage model for uniformed employees was set for this round of bargaining in the fall of 2005 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.

Mr. Lynch has called the second part of the UFA contract "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.