New York Post
August 15, 2002



WHEN I joined the NYPD in 1997 after graduating from Dartmouth, I would have done the job for free. At 22 and living at home, I thought being one of New York's Finest was the best job I could've had. Patrolling my native Brooklyn, I was serving my city in one of the most useful and noble ways possible.

I never paid much attention to salary. I was young and not at top pay. I was single. I would see raises for the next several years, and by then, I assumed the city would award us a decent contract.

It is more than five years later. I am now at top pay, I'm married and I'd like to have one or two children and send them to college one day. I have a nice place to live, but I'd like to have a home big enough for a family.

Now, for the first time, I understand why most officers' allegiances are to a fair salary, and not to the NYPD. I sympathize with veterans who will relocate to Las Vegas, the Port Authority or any other place that affords them a decent living, leaving their shoes to be filled by an inexperienced rookie.

The explanations for our likely contract - which is basically what the city offered as an opening bid two years ago - sound like a broken record: It's essential to give the NYPD a raise that matches other municipal unions due to "pattern bargaining." And: The city simply can't afford a significant raise in any event. The city suggests that it's unrealistic for cops to expect to be paid as much as ones in the Port Authority, in Newark, New Jersey, or in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

These reasons are not valid. They're just smoke and mirrors. The simple truth is that the city will save money where it can, and there's a precedent for saving it at the expense of giving cops and firefighters a competitive wage. It's time-tested and easy, and our job is so important that we can't strike legally, or in good conscience.

Even when the city could afford to pay us more in 1997, it awarded us 12 percent over five years.

Now, the city is pointing to 9/11 and its present financial troubles to say that it would love nothing more than to give us a healthy raise, but sadly can't afford to. This sounds like solid logic, but it, too, rings hollow.

The truth of the matter is that if the city cared to, it could give us a decent raise. It is merely a question of priorities.

For this reason, 9/11 has taken on an additional meaning on top all of the sorrow and tragedy it holds already. Only the death of 23 officers and thousands of citizens created a temporary environment where most police officers could work sufficient overtime to make enough money to buy a home or put together a college fund. That this is what it took is a cross the city should've borne with shame and sworn to rectify.

Instead, 9/11 and its economic results have been co-opted by the city as a poorly crafted excuse to push this tough issue off another two years. If the city's Office of Management and Budget made an effort as heroic and sustained as the NYPD has for so long, the issue of where to get the money for a fair raise would be long settled.

There is a saying in criminal-justice policy that a city gets the police department it deserves. Police officers come from in and around the city, are trained by the city and are subject to its political decisions. Their attitudes are formed by daily contact with the residents. Their outlook is informed by the way they are treated by the city government.

If this saying is true, then New York City is extremely lucky. It has gotten a better police department than it deserves.

I will be the first to tell you that public service has its own rewards. However, an officer should never have to explain this idea to his family when he's trying to buy a decent house, or to his son or daughter when they are choosing a college. We should wish good luck to the officers who go elsewhere. We should be worried about their replacements, men and women who are content to settle for less.

Brandon del Pozo is a New York City police officer. His views are his own and do not necessarily represent that of the New York City Police Department or the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.