New York Post
May 22, 2006

OPINION

Righting the Rookie-Cop Ripoff

One thing upon which just about every one can agree: The starting salary for rookie cops in New York City is dangerously low.

That came about during the last round of negotiations between the city and the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, which ended in arbitration.

The arbitrators gave the union a fat 10 percent-over-two-years salary increase for veteran cops - a raise significantly above what other municipal unions got.

The trade-off was that the base-pay for rookies was set at $25,000 for the six months they're in the police academy, jumping to $32,000 upon graduation.

The $25,000 is a ludicrously low figure - yet the union agreed to it.

Now all concerned - from union leadership to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly - agree that the starting salary has damaged recruiting. And produced embarrassing reports of rookie cops on food stamps.

The problem is what to do about it without breaking the city treasury.

The city is offering a starting salary of $36,123 (which would start July 1) and a 6 percent hike over two years (retroactive to Aug. 1, 2004) for veteran cops.

In exchange, the city is asking for productivity gains in the form of reductions in vacation and paid holidays.

New cops now get 20 vacation days and 11 paid holidays. The city wants to reduce that to 10 and five respectively for the first 51/2 years on the job.

The PBA's response is none too surprising: " 'Productivity' is a euphemism for givebacks."

While not rejecting the quite-generous hike in starting salary, the cops' union claims that the raises aren't enough and that the stressful responsibilities of cops make the benefit reductions unfair.

PBA President Pat Lynch adds, "Furthermore, [the offer] does nothing to address the critical recruitment and retention problem caused by dramatically higher police salaries in other departments."

Of course, when comparing city cops' pay to that of the suburbs, he neglects to mention that the NYPD offers a substantially more generous benefits package.

This is just the start of the bargaining process. However, as opening bids go, the city has made a rather generous offer.

The PBA would be wise to take it seriously - if for no other reason than to avoid the arbitration process that ended up burning recruits last time around.