The Chief
December 14, 2007

 

PBA: Even Cop Critics Believe Pay's Too Low

Counters Testimony By Mayor, Using Adams, Bratton

By REUVEN BLAU

With the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association arbitration hearings halfway over, the union has sought the help of unlikely allies to highlight that even the department's detractors believe that Police Officers deserve to be paid more than any other uniformed force in the city.

PAT J. LYNCH: Rounds up unusual witnesses.
PAT J. LYNCH: Rounds up unusual witnesses.

In a curious alliance, State Sen. Eric Adams testified before the tripartite arbitration panel on behalf of the PBA on Nov. 27, arguing that Police Officers deserve substantial raises. Mr. Adams, a former NYPD Captain and the co-founder of the civil rights group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, has been a frequent critic of the NYPD's policies.

A Mayoral Appearance

After the PBA finished making most of its formal case, the Office of Labor Relations kicked off its argument by calling Mayor Bloomberg as the first witness on Nov. 28. According to sources, he testified for more than two hours and was subjected to aggressive questioning by the PBA's attorneys.

The Mayor's testimony marked the third time in the past six years that he has gone before an arbitration panel empowered to handle the PBA's contract.

 

AN OUTSIDE-THE-BOX ADVOCATE: State Sen. Eric Adams, who in the past has infuriated the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and many of its members with his position on matters ranging from the Abner Louima case to racial profiling, was called on by the union to offer his perspective as an ex-cop about the need for a significant pay raise for Police Officers.
AN OUTSIDE-THE-BOX ADVOCATE: State Sen. Eric Adams, who in the past has infuriated the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and many of its members with his position on matters ranging from the Abner Louima case to racial profiling, was called on by the union to offer his perspective as an ex-cop about the need for a significant pay raise for Police Officers.

Mayor Bloomberg has continually prodded the PBA to accept contract offers similar to the financial terms reached with the city's other uniformed unions, including those representing higher NYPD ranks.

The PBA has scoffed at those proposals, refusing to capitulate to the city's demand that new officers also accept reductions in leave time and some differential pay in return for upgraded starting salaries.

Indisputable Case?

While the PBA has used current and former elected officials to argue its case before prior arbitration panels, the union this time has turned to two City Council Members not known for their strong support of the union to help persuade the arbitration panel to dramatically increase the starting salary and maximum pay for officers.

Queens City Councilman Hiram Monserrate - a former Police Officer - and Upper West Side Councilwoman Gale Brewer both testified for the PBA at the start of the hearing. The PBA last week asserted that the unconventional witnesses - including Nathan Gantcher, the co-chief executive officer of Oppenheimer & Co. - were effective.

"The PBA has produced a broad cross-section of prominent police professionals, educators, elected officials, business leaders and community leaders - not all of whom are always supportive of the NYPD - but who all agree that inadequate police pay is creating serious problems that will ultimately affect the safety of our city and neighborhoods," said union President Patrick J. Lynch.

The PBA also turned to former Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, who is now Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. Mr. Bratton testified via video-conferencing, stressing the need to pay Police Officers more than the city's Firefighters, Correction Officers, and Sanitation Workers.

As for Mr. Adams, many officers have reacted angrily to his views concerning the NYPD, and none of the police unions formally endorsed his 2006 candidacy for State Senate, despite his front-runner status and the support he received from the city's civilian labor organizations.

Misunderstood

Mr. Adams, who was unavailable for comment late last week, has maintained in the past that his "pro-law-enforcement" positions have often been misunderstood.

Last month, he called on the NYPD to create a citywide task force to look into retraining Police Officers on how to deal with emotionally disturbed citizens after the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Kheil Coppin.

The PBA's move, however, may turn off some police officers from the union, one police official said. "The rank and file generally see him as somebody who made a career out of bashing them, second-guessing them, accusing them of racism and the department of all sorts of malfeasance," the source said.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, called Mr. Adams a "professional thorn in the side."

Founded New Group

In 1995, Mr. Adams and other African-American officers founded 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, which is an offshoot of the Guardians' Association. Many black officers believed the older group was too closely tied to city management, according to Mr. Adams.

As spokesman of that group, Mr. Adams often held press conferences urging the NYPD to change various policies. He regularly pushed the department to hire and promote additional minority officers and to stop alleged racial profiling. In addition, he's held "What to Do When Stopped by the Police" workshops, which instruct youths in how to safely navigate encounters with police.

Notably, Mr. Adams publicly criticized officers allegedly involved in the Abner Louima incident in 1997 for not speaking up. Mr. Louima, a Haitian immigrant, was brutalized by an officer with a stick in the 70th Precinct stationhouse bathroom after a brawl outside a Brooklyn nightclub.

"Many people didn't understand what we were trying to do," he remarked during an interview last year, referring to the group's pointed condemnation at the time. The organization, he added, was trying "to make sure that the good cops were never hurt by the bad cops."

Breaking the Pattern?

The PBA is facing the challenging task of breaking an existing uniformed wage pattern by convincing an 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.

But one labor insider last week pointed out that those departments have smaller forces and are funded differently than the NYPD.

"When we talk about comparability, you can argue all day long about the Port Authority, except the funding is based on tolls and rental income revenue-sharing, but it's not a municipal entity," the source said. "What municipality in the world is comparable to New York City?"

A 9/11 Effect

He suggested that the PBA would have been better off pointing out how much the law-enforcement job has changed since 9/11 and that officers should receive greater compensation for the added duties and responsibilities they have taken on.

"What's absent in the PBA's case is the significant role that they now play in counter-terrorism," the insider said, while noting that he has not attended the closed-door hearings.

One veteran police official last week also questioned the PBA's negotiating stance, noting that practically all the other uniformed unions settled their contracts before the city's projected economic downturn.

"The strategy has never made any sense," the official argued. "The economic bubble has burst. You had the roaring economy with distant rumors that this could end. Now just as they are getting to arbitration, all of those projections are going the other way when the other unions settled."

Expired Contract

Police Officers have been working under a contract that expired Aug. 1, 2004. The protracted contract battle has frustrated everyone involved, especially Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. The NYPD has had a difficult time attracting new officers under the drastically reduced starting salary rate of $25,100 for officers during their first six months on the job.

The department is currently 2,800 officers short of its projected hiring goals. In addition, the NYPD expects to appoint fewer than 800 recruits for its next Academy class set to start training in January.

The need for new officers is likely to get worse in the next few years, as the thousands of officers hired in the late 1980s will soon become eligible to retire with full pensions.

The PBA is hoping to use the NYPD's continued recruitment problems to its advantage.

Mayor: Pattern's Set

Mayor Bloomberg, however, has long maintained that the wage model for uniformed employees was set for the round of bargaining at issue in the PBA dispute in the fall of 2005 by the UFA's 50-month deal, which provided raises of 3 percent and 3.15 percent in its last 26 months.

City negotiators have also pointed out that if the PBA were to agree to the same 24 percent in raises that the Sergeants Benevolent Association negotiated in July, by the end of a six-year deal maximum salary for city cops would be about $74,000, blunting the union's contention that there is a need to structurally change how cops are compensated based on other jurisdictions.

The Office of Labor Relations is expected to complete its case before the panel this week, with Commissioner James F. Hanley likely to be the last witness called. A final award may be issued by mid-January, according to sources.

Former Mayor Ed Koch, who has been a strong supporter of Mayor Bloomberg, last week stressed the need to increase pay for new officers. "I'm not for breaking parity, but I am for finding a way for increasing the salary for new cops," he said during a phone interview. "That salary is intolerable."