New York Daily News

January 12, 2001

Police Rally for a Raise

Cops descend on City Hall, rap Rudy for stalled talks

By ALICE McQUILLAN
Daily News Staff Writer

Thousands of boisterous, off-duty cops massed peacefully yesterday outside the locked gates of City Hall to demand a pay raise and verbally flog Mayor Giuliani for refusing to meet their price.

Hoping to jump-start stalled salary talks, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association organized a rally heavy on rhetoric against the man they once considered their strongest ally.

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New York's Finest took to the streets in search of a higher salary.

Chants like "Highest Paid Mayor, Lowest Paid Cops" and "You got a raise, we want a raise" echoed from the crowd that filled four blocks along lower Broadway.

"We are not numbers in someone's political career," said PBA President Patrick Lynch, addressing his members. "We are cops doing a thankless job. We've given more, and we deserve more. We deserve more."

At that point the crowd — estimated at 4,500 by the Police Department and 15,000 by the union — broke into applause and chants. The demonstrators did that 26 times during Lynch's 20-minute speech.

True to their promise, the PBA pulled off an orderly rally, in stark contrast to the 1992 riot by beer-guzzling officers who stormed the steps of City Hall.

This time, union delegates policed their own, and most of the crowd dispersed at the rally's end into 75 chartered buses.

"The drink of the day is mineral water," said a smiling Lynch.

The presence of spouses and the children of police officers helped keep the peace. Dion Ruta, 11, whose father, Damon Ruta, is an officer in the Bronx, carried a sign that read: "My...Dad Could Not Afford Play Station 2. Thanks Giuliani."

Others showing their support were widows and parents of cops slain in the line of duty.

"My son went out to his job every day," said Teresa Gillespie, whose son Kevin was gunned down in 1996. "They didn't pay him enough to live, and they sure didn't pay him enough to die."

Actors Jerry Orbach of TV's "Law & Order" and Al (Grandpa) Lewis of '60s hits "The Munsters" and "Car 54, Where Are You?" also spoke.

Lewis, 90, removed his cigar, raised his fist and delighted the crowd with barbs at Giuliani.

"You are a...man who squelches on his promises," he said. "And when you leave [office], I hope you run for mayor of Miami."

The catcalls and chants were audible inside City Hall, but the mayor was busy with problems of the Middle East as he lunched privately with Jewish leaders during the hour-and-40-minute police rally.

Later, Giuliani told reporters that he was duty-bound to act in a fiscally responsible manner in the face of the PBA's demand for a 39% raise over two years. He said he has budgeted a 2.5% annual increase for the unions.

A 39% raise would cost the city $7 billion, Giuliani said.

"I believe I'm doing my job as the mayor, which is I can't give them everything they want," he said. "I love police officers, I tremendously respect them...but the reality is the city can only pay so much, otherwise we bankrupt the city."

Unlike 1992, the protesting officers were treated like all other demonstrators, kept behind metal barricades.

Sergeants and other higher-ranking officers attended to humble tasks like barricade removal.

Several officers complained their salary wasn't enough to pay the rent. A 30-year-old single cop from Brooklyn, who gave her name as Mary, pulled out her pay stub showing a net of $847.01 for two weeks' work, including night differential and an hour and 15 minutes of overtime.

"My rent is $800, my check is $800," she said. "I'm living check to check. I like my job, I have a great personnel folder with commendations, but I just can't live like this."

With Frank Lombardi