New York Daily News

August 15, 2002

Cops can't put praise in the bank

Well, we are truly in the middle of a mess with the New York Police Department, one of the finest police forces to have ever worn badges or carried shields. This talk of a wildcat strike over pay is something that has been coming for quite some time.

We know why there is so much resentment on the part of the cops. We would be resentful if we were cops, given what they have done for this city over the last eight years, in particular, and what they have received in compensation.

Sure, we can point to instances when cops have not behaved as they should — when, in fact, some have been extraordinary burdens of shame. But, like every other group, the cops should not be judged by the worst among them.

What they do overall — and beyond the call of duty when the truest moment calls — is what we should think about. We also should think of the impact our cops had on this economy by making New York seem safe to tourists from all over the world, which meant a boom in tourism that put plenty of black and Latin unskilled laborers into the mix. Property owners can tell you how the value of their real estate begins to inch up once a criminal presence is intimidated into moving along. Subway riders will attest to how much safer they have felt because of the quality of the work of our police.

Somehow, after risking their lives, after dramatically reducing crime, our heroes have yet to get to the front of the line when it comes to getting a raise in keeping with the cost of living in this city.

There is a true argument that whenever one group of civil servants gets a raise, everybody wants one, but that is the nature of upward mobility in civil service. It is also true that human beings, civil servants or not, will always try to coax another golden egg out of the goose. That's how it is.

Beyond that, cops cannot put praise in the bank, no matter how much they get, which is why we are hearing talk of a wildcat strike. Yet, for all the sympathy I have for the cops, I think a wildcat strike is irresponsible.

That's the hard fact of being a cop. Deciding to prove how valuable you are by staying home can result in chaos. It's truly unfortunate, because I wish that cops could just take a week or two off the job, but then few people would feel free to leave their homes as the savage side of our civilization would rise up with a deafening roar that might destroy lives on a scale that would make us all shudder.

Let's hope that they get plenty of support at their Times Square rally at noon today (by adding their presence, certain so-called black leaders could prove that they, too, understand the financial injustices faced by our police). But if we do find ourselves in the middle of a wildcat strike, we can be sure the strikers did not get there by themselves. They will be responding to having been praised and patted on the back and, when it came to money, kicked in the pants by City Hall.