The Chief
November 22, 2007

Surprise Witnesses Aid PBA Pay Case

Testify at Arbitration

By REUVEN BLAU

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association has turned to two City Council Members not known for their strong support of the union to help persuade a contract arbitration panel to dramatically increase the starting salary and maximum pay for officers.

HIRAM MONSERRATE: 'Train 'em and lose 'em.'
HIRAM MONSERRATE: 'Train 'em and lose 'em.'

Queens City Councilman Hiram Monserrate - a former Police Officer - and Upper West Side Councilwoman Gale Brewer testified on behalf of the PBA at the first hearing on Nov 6.

'Treat Cops Fairly'

Mr. Monserrate, who has at times been highly critical of the NYPD's lack of minority promotions, said last week that his testimony was unique for several reasons. He noted that he has worked on the Council's budget negotiating committee, represents a highly diverse area, and has law-enforcement experience.

"I made an opening statement about the importance of ensuring that our Police Officers are treated fairly," he remarked during a Nov. 15 phone interview. "We train them and they gain valuable experience on patrol. And then we lose them to other jurisdictions that pay more - that just doesn't make sense."

GALE BREWER: Squad-car liberal.
GALE BREWER: Squad-car liberal.

The PBA last week highlighted those exoduses by pointing out that more than half of the new officers in Nassau County's Police Academy class are former NYPD officers. In total, 56 of the 99 cops who began training on Nov. 2 started their careers with the NYPD.

Nassau County Police Officers are among the country's highest-paid. Under an arbitration award issued in July, the maximum pay for Nassau cops - not including an added longevity bonus - is currently $96,129. By April 1, 2012 - the final year of that award - top pay will reach $116,955.

On Par With City Lieuts.

That Nassau maximum is less than $800 below what senior NYPD Lieutenants and First Grade Detectives currently receive. It is also more than $36,000 above the top pay for city Police Officers - $59,588 - under a PBA contract that is 40 months out of date.

PBA President Patrick J. Lynch has repeatedly slammed the Bloomberg administration for 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.

PATRICK J. LYNCH: Cops run for Nassau border.
PATRICK J. LYNCH: Cops run for Nassau border.

According to the PBA, the total number of Police Officers who have quit during the first 10 months of 2007 is about 3 percent higher than the same period last year when 799 resigned. By comparison, 159 such officers quit in 1991, the union has said.

Ms. Brewer's selection as a PBA witness came as a particular surprise to labor observers and union officials.

'I'm Close With Cops'

Ms. Brewer, the chair of the Council's Technology in Government Committee and one of its most-liberal members, said she wasn't surprised when the PBA asked for her help. "I've always had a good relationship with them," she remarked, noting the union endorsed her candidacy. "I'm very close with the officers in my district. I talk to them almost on a daily basis."

Ms. Brewer also pointed out that she worked with Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly when they both served in the Dinkins administration. "I was head of the Federal Office," she said.

The PBA is facing the difficult task of trying to break an existing uniformed wage pattern by convincing the three-person arbitration panel to dramatically transform how cops are compensated to make their pay competitive with that of officers in Long Island and at the Port Authority.

City negotiators have maintained that since 1898 there has been salary parity between Police Officers and Firefighters.

The PBA has used current and former elected officials to argue its case before prior arbitration panels. Notably, the union asked former New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams to testify on its behalf in a past arbitration.

Wavering on Impartiality

During the 2005 arbitration hearing, the PBA asked Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr., the chair of the safety committee, to help make its case before the panel. The Queens official, however, declined to participate, noting last week that he also has to work with the Bloomberg administration and wanted to remain impartial.

But Mr. Vallone said the current "crisis" may lead him to change his position and seemed open to the possibility of testifying before the panel, which is being chaired by Susan T. McKenzie.