The Chief
September 28, 2007

Strapped New Cops Squeezed on Guns:

Must Buy $79 Sights

By REUVEN BLAU

Even as the NYPD's low starting salary has led to a record number of recruit dropouts, the department has continued to charge new officers for night-sights on their agency-issued guns.

PATRICK LYNCH: Wrong to make rookies pay.
PATRICK LYNCH: Wrong to make rookies pay.

The move has caused resentment among some cash-strapped officers in the class who are struggling to make ends meet under the low starting salary of $25,100 for their first six months of training.

NYPD: Nothing New

Recruits have had to pay for the self-luminous sights since the late 1990s, when the department made that equipment standard issue, NYPD officials said. "We've been doing this forever," asserted a department spokesman. "This is nothing new."

The department does pay for recruits' guns and bulletproof vests, but new cops are still required to buy their own night sights and uniforms. The outfits can cost up to $2,000.

The price for the glow-in-the-dark Tritium sights, which manufacturers say give shooters five times greater night-fire accuracy, ranges from $59 to $79 depending on which one of the three types of guns the officer's are fitted with at the range.

RAYMOND W. KELLY: Compounding problems?
RAYMOND W. KELLY: Compounding problems?

"It's like 79 bucks, and they wanted us to bring in a money order," one recruit said last week. "We had to come up with a money order within a two-week span. People were having a lot of trouble coming up with the money. We just had to buy new uniforms and that was like $500."

18% of Class Gone

The July class started with 924 recruits, but 165 have already dropped out, according to the NYPD. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has said that those officers primarily cited the low pay in explaining their departures.

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, which has been stuck in a bitter contract dispute with the Bloomberg administration since 2004, blasted the department's policy of charging recruits for the night sights and uniforms.

"The weapons issued to new Police Officers should be fully equipped to meet departmental standards at no additional cost to the officer," said PBA President Patrick J. Lynch in a statement.

'Another Reason to Quit'

He noted that many other local police departments provide their officers with uniforms and weapons at no cost while paying them more money as well. "It's just another reason that nearly 1,000 trained and experienced officers quit the NYPD each year for jobs with better pay, better benefits and better all around treatment," he added.

The 18-percent attrition rate since the class began in July is higher than the two-month figure for the prior two police classes. The January 2007 class lost 11.5 percent and the July 2006 had 13.6-percent leave over that same initial time period.

Commissioner Kelly has testified before the City Council that the department's continued recruitment and retention woes could force the NYPD to scale back its Operation Impact program.

In an attempt to help the new recruits, the department has taken steps to ease their financial burden by offering them a "uniform advance" to help them pay for their equipment and uniforms.

Offers Uniform Loan

The NYPD offered the recruits $600 to pay for an initial list of 41 pieces of clothing and equipment that includes three shirts, a raincoat and an expandable baton.

Roughly 700 of the new cops have borrowed the money and taken advantage of the program, which is unique to the current class, according to the NYPD. Those officers signed a voucher allowing the department to withhold their $1,000 uniform allowance, which is issued in December.

The new recruits earn a pro-rated $25,100 - or $12,550 - during their first six months of training under a controversial arbitration award issued in 2005. After taxes, officers receive only about $600 each bi-monthly paycheck.

That has made it difficult for them to buy their uniforms and equipment, which can cost up to $2,000, veteran officers said. Currently, recruits must use close to 25 percent of their take-home salary to pay for that work-related expense. The department supplies officers with bullet-proof vests and firearms, but they must pay for practically everything else, including the night-sights.

Credit-Card Break

To help the recruits, the Municipal Credit Union has also started offering them a $500-limit low-interest credit card.

To ease equipment costs for all officers, the NYPD also recently launched a new on-line site that allows them to buy the clothing and gear free of shipping costs. But the Web site does not include the gun night-sights, which are welded onto the department's already-purchased firearms.

The on-line catalog does offer most everything else, including cargo shorts, gun belts, and holsters. Previously, officers purchased that equipment at 1 Police Plaza in lower Manhattan. Officers using the Web site must finish an enrollment form, create a user name and password and submit their personal identification number. Individuals outside the department cannot access the site.