New York 1 News

August 21, 2004

Police Union Threatens Lawsuit Over Protest Restrictions

The police union is threatening to file a lawsuit against the city if restrictions on members picketing Mayor Michael Bloomberg at public appearances are not lifted.

Mocking the mayor's trip to the Olympics in Greece, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association rallied with the local Greek community at Athens Square in Astoria, Queens on Saturday. “While Mayor Bloomberg can afford to get on his private jet and fly off to Athens, Greece, for the Olympics, most working people and New York City police officers cannot afford to do that,” said Pat Lynch, the president of the union.

The union has been shadowing the mayor at many of his public appearances, putting pressure on him to meet their demands for the raises they want in a new contract. The NYPD says it recognizes the union’s right to dissent, but says PBA members must still adhere to the law.

“They're being more restrictive with New York City police officers then they are with any other group that demonstrates in the city,” Lynch said. “They're monitoring us on a regular basis.”

Earlier in the week, union members were threatened with arrest for getting rowdy during a 1 a.m. protest outside the mayor's Upper East Side townhouse.

“We had a candlelight vigil at the mayor's home,” Lynch said. “People say, ‘Why the mayor's home?’ The mayor brought this fight to the leaders of the union's homes first. They put out stories attacking the union leader of the Fire Department. He put in that ballpark; we just joined him in that ballpark.”

The PBA says the city has already lost more than 5,000 officers due to low pay. In the post-9/11 era and with the Republican National Convention right around the corner, Lynch said, this is a serious problem.

The union head also said the NYPD ranks 145th out of 200 big cities in terms of pay for police – not what you'd expect for the largest police force in the country, he said.

“They are called upon to do so many more chores than any other police department in the entire world,” said state Senator George Onorato, who joined the union at Saturday’s rally. “We have the United Nations here, and we have rallies of all sorts.”

The mayor, who has offered police roughly the same small raises accepted by other city unions, has said the city cannot afford to give the union as much as it wants.

City police officers have been working without a contract for more than two years. The union has declared talks to be at an impasse and is seeking mediation.