New York Daily News

February 7, 2007


Five hundred dollars might seem like a pretty paltry reward for risking your life - but not if you're an underpaid new cop.

Hero rookie cops Patrick Lynch and Christine Schmidt got a $500 reward for chasing down and tackling an armed thug after cops say he bashed another rookie cop with a bat and fled with the officer's gun.

And they're going to need every cent.

New officers - who patrol some of the city's most dangerous spots - earn just $25,100 a year while in the academy and a measly $32,700 a year afterward.

"Considering their salary, [$500 is] a considerable amount of money," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said during a ceremony at 1 Police Plaza to honor the rookies.

The nonprofit Police Foundation paid for the rewards.

Lynch and Schmidt, who came to the rescue of Officer Joseph Cho, played down their valor - and their flimsy paychecks.

"I'm sure everyone in America needs more money, but I'm proud to be an officer in the NYPD," said Lynch, 22.

The three officers were walking their beats alone in different parts of Corona early Sunday when desperate college dropout Danny Fernandez crept up behind Cho, clocked him with the bat twice and stole his gun, cops said.

"Anything that time of night can happen," Lynch said. "I'm just glad we were able to react quickly. I think anybody would do the same thing."

Lynch spotted Cho on the ground, radioed for help and chased Fernandez, 21, straight into the arms of Schmidt, cops said.

"You go out there to protect the civilians and you know that's a possibility - that danger could occur," said Schmidt, 26, who gave up a job as a teacher to join the NYPD.

All three rookies graduated from the academy in December.

"These outstanding young officers - they typify the dedication and professionalism we see throughout the ranks," Kelly said. "They are reason why New York is so safe."

Cho, who suffered skull fractures and needed 20 stitches, was recovering at Elmhurst Hospital Center yesterday.

"God helped him so much. God loves him. And his family thanks God for it," said Cho's father at the family's Bayside, Queens, home. "This is life. It could go one way or another."

Cho, 30, will get the same recognition as Lynch and Schmidt, who visited him in the hospital but found him asleep.

"The physical and mental courage these officers showed is typical of all New York City police officers," said Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch, who is not related to the rookie. "Now it's time for the city to show the political courage to pay its police officers competitively."

The PBA is battling with the city over a new contract.

The low rookie salary came out of the last contract when in June 2005 an arbitration panel substantially knocked down starting pay and gave older cops raises.

Eric Schmertz, the panel's chairman, wrote that rookies "have not yet experienced the dangers, the stress and the responsibilities of incumbent police officers."

Lynch and Schmidt will be back on the beat tomorrow.