New York Daily News

January 15, 2007

Lots of Finest head to 'burbs

BY MICHAEL WHITE and ALISON GENDAR DAILY NEWS POLICE BUREAU

January 15, 2007—Suburban police departments near the city are raiding the NYPD to fill their own ranks, luring away dozens of veteran cops with the promise of better pay and safer beats.

Former NYPD officers accounted for a third of Suffolk County's most recent Police Academy class. The same was true in Nassau County, records show.

The Port Authority poached even more officers from the NYPD, hiring 329 city cops since the 9/11 attacks. The former city cops account for 60% of all the officers hired by the bistate agency during the past five years, sources said. Sources also estimated that about a quarter of the 750-member MTA police force has ties to the NYPD.

The cops' reasons for leaving the NYPD vary - but there is one constant: Police officers can earn much more money working outside the five boroughs.

Though cops in Nassau County get paid $23,000 initially, their annual salary jumps to $44,360 after 18 months, and to $85,282 after six years. Suffolk County cops get paid $57,811 to $97,959.

And Port Authorities officers get an initial salary of $37,100 - then their pay rises to $65,800 after five years and $90,000 after nine years.

By comparison, NYPD recruits get paid $25,100. Their salaries jump to $32,700 after six months, and $42,800 after five years. Top base pay after seven years is $59,588.

"Financially, it was a no-brainer," ex-NYPD Sgt. Frank Cutinella told the Daily News.

Cutinella, 36, took a pay cut, gave up his rank, and went through training all over again in 2002 to join the Suffolk County Police Department.

The 11-year NYPD veteran said he loved working as a cop in Brooklyn's 75th Precinct and then as a transit sergeant in Brooklyn. But when the chance to work for Suffolk came up, Cutinella said he couldn't say no.

"In terms of what is best for me and my family - the financial benefits outweighed me staying as a senior officer, even starting over as a rookie at Suffolk," he said.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has acknowledged that the NYPD's paltry starting salary has undercut its efforts to recruit new officers, crippling plans by City Hall to add 800 cops to the department's ranks.

But Kelly said once cops get through the NYPD academy, they tend to stay in the department until they retire after at least 20 years on the job.

Kelly called the NYPD's 2% attrition rate exceptional. "No Fortune 500 company has an attrition rate that low," he said.

Kelly expressed optimism last week that the city and the largest police union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, will be able to craft a new contract with higher starting salaries before the next Police Academy class in July. The last contract expired in July 2004.

But police union officials said the starting salary is only part of the problem.

"There are two ways to keep adequate staffing in the NYPD: hire more police or keep the ones you have," said PBA President Patrick Lynch. "The recruiting and retention problem at the NYPD has reached critical mass and the solution is simple: pay New York City police officers a salary that can compete with the higher wages that other police departments are paying."

Glenn Tarquinio, 43, had worked for the NYPD for nearly 17 years when he left the department to become a Suffolk County cop in 2002. In Suffolk, he got higher pay for a shorter workday - 8 hours vs. 8 hours and 35 minutes. "I always wanted to be a cop, and a New York City cop at that," he said. "But you have to be able to take care of your family."