New York Daily News

Rookies are N.Y.'s poorest
Cops try to get by on 25G


February 12, 2006—The 1,211 recruits sworn into the NYPD's latest academy class pledged to put their lives on the line to protect and serve the city.

But during the six months they are training, these brave men and women will earn less than city bus drivers, sanitation workers and gardeners - pocketing roughly $370.17 after taxes each week.

"These cops - these heroes in training - can barely make ends meet when they are in Police Academy," said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. "It is disgraceful."

The $25,100 annual salary is down significantly from the $38,000 earned by NYPD recruits sworn in last July before a new contract between the police union and City Hall lowered the academy pay.

By comparison, the city Sanitation Department pays new hires about $26,000 a year and the starting salary for Parks Department gardeners is $30,630. New bus drivers earn about $35,000 a year.

Almost every penny of the NYPD recruits' $370.17 weekly take-home pay must be devoted toward academy expenses, union officials argued.

The costs, they said, begin to add up almost immediately. First, recruits pay an estimated $1,500 for the required dress uniform, and then roughly $670 for police equipment, including traffic vests, handcuffs, locks and shirts.

The weekly take home pay was calculated by Marc Albaum, a certified public accountant, who modeled the calculations using a hypothetical single recruit from Staten Island.

Union officials said a recruit living on Staten Island would likely spend $532 every two weeks for parking, tolls, lunches, gasoline, haircuts and supplies. Those expenses would leave a recruit $208.34 to cover rent or mortgage payments, breakfast and dinner, as well as other expenses, every two weeks.

The academy salary, which has been criticized by the PBA and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, was brokered by a state arbitrator after union and city officials failed repeatedly to agree on a contract.

An NYPD spokesman declined comment other than to reiterate Kelly's previous statement that it is "simply bad public policy to reduce the starting salary by $15,000."

Union officials said they fear they will not be able to lure enough future recruits because of the meager salary. They point to the most recent academy class, which drew 1,211 applicants for 1,400 slots, and say the trend will intensify now that the pay cut has gone into effect.

Negotiations for the PBA's next contract are underway.

Lynch argued that a lack of substantial raises in the first few years out of the academy exacerbates the problem. After graduating, salaries rise to $32,700 and eventually top out at $59,588 after six years on the job.

By comparison, the Port Authority pays rookies $32,500 a year. Nassau County cops make only $21,000 their first year on the beat but their salary reaches $90,000 after seven years.

"You've got to promise them a substantial raise, something they feel like they are working toward," Lynch said. "You have to give them a light at the end of the tunnel, or we'll just keep losing them to the suburbs."