New York Post
January 25, 2007

Alarm Over Cop Exodu$

By LARRY CELONA and BILL SANDERSON

January 25, 2007 -- Low pay is driving more and more of New York's Finest to leave the job despite Mayor Bloomberg's efforts to bolster their ranks, the city's biggest police union complained yesterday.

"The problem is out of control," said Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch. He said that in 2005 and 2006, 1,769 officers quit before becoming eligible for retirement, enough to staff 12 precincts.

Not counting retirements, 2 percent of uniformed officers quit the department last year. "Any major company would like to have an attrition rate that low," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told the City Council yesterday.

But the numbers have had a real impact on the street.

Last year's loss of 902 rank-and-file uniformed cops badly hurt Bloomberg's push to boost the number of patrol officers.

Uniformed-police staffing is now about 1,000 officers below its authorized level of about 35,000, a police spokesman said.

Bloomberg had sought to increase the number of patrol cops by about 1,200. The unexpected attrition means he's boosted that number by only 200.

And attrition has gotten steadily worse since 1991, when 159 officers quit - a barely noticeable rate of 0.5 percent.

Bloomberg and Lynch agree on one thing - drawing new hires is tough with the $25,000 starting police salary. "It's difficult to recruit when you start out at a low number," the mayor said.

Otherwise, they blame each other for the attrition problems.

Bloomberg said that in the last round of contract talks, the PBA unwisely sought to hike veteran cops' salaries at the expense of rookie pay - a choice ultimately approved in arbitration.

"We said then, that's not the smartest thing to do . . . We'll have to negotiate at the next contract hopefully to fix that," the mayor said.

Lynch blasted city officials for failing to make pay and benefits more attractive. "City Hall does not have the courage to solve that problem," he said.

Bloomberg said that despite low starting pay, cops have plenty of opportunity to make overtime and get a good benefits package.

But Lynch said that patrol officers' maximum base pay of $59,588 is low compared to other area police departments.

State troopers make $75,678, Port Authority officers make $80,720 and cops in Nassau and Suffolk counties can get more than $90,000.

NYPD brass are so anxious to hire more officers that 61 members of the current Police Academy class - 4.4 percent - are rejects from earlier classes, said a police source.

Despite the low starting pay. Eddie Casaceli, a 24-year-old Air Force veteran with a master's degree in aeronautical science, says he is thrilled to be in the current NYPD academy class.

Casaceli was only 17 years old when he aced the police exam six years ago. He decided to wait until after his military stint to join up - but his enrollment was delayed until this week because an applicant has to be 18 when taking the test.

"I'm excited to start," Casaceli said yesterday.

Additional reporting by Jennifer Fermino, David Seifman and Frankie Edozien

larry.celona@nypost.com