New York Daily News

January 10, 2006

Recruits on the Cheap

LISA L. COLANGELO AND TONY SCLAFANI
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

A NEW BATCH OF NYPD recruits sworn in yesterday is the first to earn $25,100 - the lowest starting salary for New York's Finest in at least two decades.

That's "bad public policy," according to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly - who called on the city and the police union to boost starting wages.

In his strongest comments on the salary issue, Kelly called for higher pay in the next round of contract talks with the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

"I think it has to be rectified," Kelly said after the swearing- in ceremony at Brooklyn College in Midwood. "It has to be taken on as the No. 1 issue."

The incoming class will earn $15,000 less than the class that was sworn in last July.

Kelly blamed the salary plunge on a state arbitrator and said it will hurt recruitment; yesterday's class of 1,121 applied before the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association contract was settled last year.

"I lay this squarely at the feet of the arbitrator," said Kelly, who added that 63% of the new class lives in the city. "It's just simply bad public policy to reduce the starting salary by $15,000."

The pay cut covers a 10.25% raise over two years for officers already on the payroll. After six months in the academy, rookie salaries are bumped to $32,700.

Mayor Bloomberg pinned the pay plunge on the PBA. "Unfortunately, the PBA chose binding arbitration," Bloomberg said. "I've always thought and said it repeatedly that negotiations should be done face to face without third parties."

Union officials said the city first suggested lower starting salaries to fund the pay raises. "We go to arbitration because the city refuses to negotiate from across the table," said PBA President Patrick Lynch.

The salary is much lower than that of other area police forces. For example, the Port Authority starts rookies off with $32,500.

The number of applicants taking the NYPD's entry test in February is down 30%, a sign the slash in pay may be driving away future cops.

Sources said the NYPD had set a goal to hire 1,400 recruits for this class, and some cops attribute the shortfall to the pay cut.

Despite the cut, 325 members of the new class have four-year college degrees, 275 have associate's degrees, 14 have master's degrees and one has a doctoral degree. More than 20% are women and 54% are members of minority groups.