June 14, 2000

Cops: Respect Us Rally before union talks

The Associated Press

Several thousand off-duty police officers and their supporters rallied in a lower Manhattan park yesterday, demanding higher pay and respect for their role in helping reduce the city's crime rate.

Carrying signs reading "Cops Are People, Too," "Support Your Police" and "Solidarity," representatives from various police unions fired up the crowd at Battery Park with talk of a united front in negotiations with the city.

"Today, we stand here as proud New York City police officers at a time when it's not popular to say you're a cop," said Patrick Lynch, president of the 27,000-member Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, whose contract expires July 31.

"Tourists and New Yorkers alike come to this great park on a regular basis because they feel safe, and they feel protected," he said.

"They come here and they spend their money. We made this city great. That money in the city coffers is your money." Lynch said the rally had been scheduled long before controversy erupted this week over a new Bruce Springsteen song, "American Skin (41 Shots)." The song repeats the words "41 shots," referring to the number of times four white officers shot at Amadou Diallo, a black West African immigrant killed last year in the Bronx. The officers were cleared of criminal charges in February after a trial in Albany.

Springsteen performed the song on Monday night at Madison Square Garden, where he met with Diallo's parents.

"A man that claims to sing for the working class person has decided that he'd sing about us," Lynch said yesterday.

"Well, I ask him to do this: look at our paychecks. We are working-class people and we don't need a millionaire coming down here making money on our backs." The police union rally also featured Andra Schwarz, the wife of Officer Charles Schwarz — one of four cops convicted in the Brooklyn precinct-house attack on Abner Louima. Her husband faces a possible life sentence on convictions for assault and conspiracy; he is appealing both convictions.

"This travesty has been allowed to occur because the U.S. Eastern Attorney's office will not admit they made a mistake," she said. "Instead, they sacrificed an innocent cop's life because cops' lives are expendable in the greater scheme of the government's political agenda."