July 11, 2002

Cops Jump Ship, Join Port Authority

By Sean Gardiner STAFF WRITER; Staff writer Rocco Parascandola contributed to this story.

About 150 officers are jumping from the New York Police Department to the Port Authority Police Department, a defection that comes at a time when veteran NYPD officers are retiring in large numbers.

Between 150 and 160 of the 192 candidates entering a special Port Authority Police's academy for former cops Monday will be former NYPD officers, said Dan Bledsoe, a spokesman for the Port Authority. The main reason is salary, a key police union said.

"The NYPD has been and remains in denial about their ability to retain officers," said Al O'Leary, speaking on behalf of Patrolman's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch. "It's pretty clear the job is not as attractive as it used to be because the salaries aren't as attractive."

The Port Authority Police's starting salary of $32,362 a year is comparable to the NYPD's starting salary of $31,305. However, after five years, Port Authority officers make $70,344, about $10,000 more a year than NYPD officers with equal time on the force.

The defection comes on top of other losses. In 2000, 1,576 officers retired, and last year that number jumped by about 88 percent to 2,969 retirees.

The PBA also contends that the NYPD has lost more than 1,200 young officers to other police departments over the past year and a half, including 72 to the Port Authority in April.

Lt. Brian Burke, a police department spokesman, said more than 1,900 recruits entered the NYPD's academy last week and through a re-invigorated recruiting campaign that includes use of Internet applications, the department is confident it will hit its target of 39,100 officers.

But while the department has been able to hire enough recruits to keep the force up to size, officials worry they are losing officers with experience.

The NYPD's loss is the Port Authority's gain. The authority must bolster its 1,400-member department left depleted by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Thirty-seven officers died when the World Trade Center's towers collapsed, the most casualties a police department has suffered in a single event in U.S. law enforcement history.

The attacks also prompted a need for added security at airports, bridges and tunnels run by the Port Authority, which hopes to hire another 400 officers by the end of the year. The agency's officers have been working 12-hour days since Sept. 11.