August 27, 2002

20 on Council Back Cop Pay Hike

By Graham Rayman

Invoking Sept. 11 and the terror threat, 20 City Council members threw their support Tuesday behind the police union in its dispute with the Bloomberg administration over salary increases.

“We benefit from the safety provided by them, but the social contract with them was never fulfilled,” said Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-Corona), a former police officer. “We need to make sure that police officers don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck.”

Monserrate declined to say what the salary increase should be, but he suggested he would support a tax increase to pay the officers more money.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said he was grateful for the support, calling it “recognition that the work of police officers and firefighters is different from most civil service jobs.”

The salary dispute has escalated in recent weeks. On Aug. 15, about 15,000 police officers and firefighters flooded Times Square for a rally emphasizing the sacrifices on Sept. 11 and the decrease in the crime rate.

Twenty-three police officers and 343 firefighters were killed in the World Trade Center attacks.

Currently, the police and city are awaiting a decision from the state Public Employees Relations Board. Details of a draft decision indicated that the board was weighing a 14.1 percent increase — including 5 percent in each of the first two years — and a requirement that officers work 10 more days a year.

PBA officials have long said that a 23 percent raise in each of the first two years would bring city police officers in line with the salary of officers in Newark, N.J., a city with a lower per capita income.

A city police officer starts out at $31,300 annually and winds up making a salary of $55,260 after 20 years. With overtime, Nassau officers average $101,000 a year within about seven years.

As for the proposed increase in the number of tours, the union said city police officers already work 18 more days a year than officers in other metropolitan area police departments.

PBA spokesman Al O’Leary said that if the board’s draft ruling becomes the final decision, the union may go to court on the tour change issue because the board heard no testimony on that issue.

Last week, Mayor Bloomberg said the PBA has itself to blame if it does not like the board’s decision since the union sought the state arbitration.