New York Daily News

September 27, 2005

Daily News Exclusive

Lower pay tied to copout on NYPD exam

By ALISON GENDAR
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

The NYPD has a numbers problem: Fewer people want to be cops since the starting salary was slashed to $25,100.

Some 21,236 candidates signed up to take the October police exam - a 39.3% drop from the 35,000 who registered for the exam given last October.

Last year's signup period, however, was about a month longer than this year's.

Comparing a similar 73-day eligibility window, the decline was still 15%: 21,236 registered for this exam compared with 25,000 by last October.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has conceded the new starting salary set by an arbitration panel "presents a major recruiting challenge to the department" and said he hoped to see starting salaries rise again.

But it may be "too early to tell" if the salary change has affected recruitment and signups, Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said.

Indeed, the number of applicants for the exam is higher than for many exams from 2001 through 2003.

And Browne noted that any decline in interest doesn't mean a decline in quality: The NYPD has a backlog of 1,200 qualified applicants on file and will begin screening the 6,800 people who passed the June exam.

That, coupled with candidates from the upcoming exam, will be more than enough to fill the next academy class with top-notch candidates, Browne said.

Rank-and-file cops argue the job still lost some of its luster when starting pay for the six months candidates are in the police academy was cut to $12 an hour.

"I've had people say they can make more working for PETsMART than this," said a cop who works with prospective hires. "Recruiters have been told to sell the job by saying, 'It's like getting paid to go to school.'"

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said the NYPD will see dwindling numbers of applicants until the city boosts the salary for five-year veterans beyond the new $59,588.

"People are willing to sacrifice at the start of their careers if they see a payoff. Right now, they don't," Lynch said.

James O'Keefe, director of training at the Police Academy from 1995 to 2001 and now a professor at St. John's University, said no one signs up for the NYPD expecting to get rich.

"Does the new salary have an impact? Of course. But a lot of people aren't motivated by salary," he said. "They are motivated by the desire to serve and fight terrorism. Those are the people you want."