September 8, 2006

Cops leave NYPD for pay

Most of the 12,000 cops who have left the NYPD the past five years have retired, but a noticeable number have simply changed uniforms, joining police forces with higher pay.

On Monday, for instance, 31 of the 100 recruits slated to start at the police academy for the Suffolk police department will not be fresh-faced rookies. They're cops who just left the NYPD, where first-year officers make half of what they do in Suffolk.

The percentage is substantial, but nothing compared with the defectors to the Port Authority Police Department, which pays its first-year officers $37,135. In their ninth year on the force, they earn $90,000.

An NYPD officer, by comparison, earns $25,100 to start, gets bumped up to $32,700 after six months and tops out at $59,588 after 5 1/2 years.

According to an NYPD source, 329 of the 557 Port Authority officers hired since 2002 - or 59 percent - used to wear the NYPD uniform.

A number of people, NYPD sources say, take the exams for several departments and join the NYPD because the 37,000-member force is the first to call them. Then, when they get a call from their department of preference, they leave, the sources said.

Still, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has made it clear that an officer's starting salary - slashed from $36,000 in the previous contract - makes it difficult to recruit police officers.

"It's no secret that the new starting salary is a problem," said the NYPD's top spokesman, Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.

On Long Island, the pay is more a draw than a detriment.

Suffolk officers earn $57,811 to start and $97,958 after five years. Nassau County has a starting salary of $23,000, but after a year, officers are earning $35,903, and after eight years, their salary is $91,737.

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association says too many officers are leaving the NYPD, not because other departments were their first choice, but because they can't pay the bills on an NYPD officer's salary.

"They simply couldn't support their families on what the city pays," says PBA president Pat Lynch. "It costs about $100,000 per officer to recruit, train and field a New York City police officer. That money is wasted every time an NYPD cop quits for a better job."