The New York Times

January 12, 2001

Police Demonstrate for a Raise and Denounce Giuliani


Bearing signs reading "No increase in pay, no reason to stay," and "Crime is down, so is our morale," thousands of police officers gathered yesterday near City Hall to hear speaker after speaker direct words of bitterness against Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and accuse him of betraying them.

At the rally, organized to demand higher pay, Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, screamed himself hoarse and punched his hand in the air for emphasis from a makeshift stage on a rented flatbed truck. He, like other speakers and many officers in the crowd, suggested that Mr. Giuliani had used the police to further his agenda without any real concern for them.

"We're not numbers in somebody's political career," said Mr. Lynch, who is conducting contract negotiations for the union for the first time. "We brought crime down double digits and how are we paid? With double zeros."

The rally, which stretched four blocks along Broadway, was in marked contrast to the last major police demonstration at City Hall in 1992, when thousands of off-duty officers, some openly drinking beer, blocked traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge and shouted racial epithets about David N. Dinkins, the city's first black mayor.

This time, police officers did little more than chant, cheer and leave a trail of empty coffee cups.

Chief Allan H. Hoehl, the police supervisor for southern Manhattan, said, "I thought they were very well behaved and very orderly."

Police Department officials said that the rally drew a crowd of 4,500, while the police union put the number at 15,000. But police supervisors on the scene estimated the number to be about 7,000.

As Mr. Lynch spoke, Steven McDonald, the police officer who was shot and paralyzed in 1986, sat nearby in a wheelchair, a reminder of the dangers of the job. With him were parents and widows of police officers killed in the line of duty.

Terri Gillespie, the mother of Kevin Gillespie, an officer who was fatally shot in the Bronx in 1996, recalled aloud the wrenching night at the hospital when her son died. She said that Mr. Giuliani had made a special point of approaching her in the waiting room and saying, "If there is anything I can do for you, please, all you have to do is ask."

"Well, guess what, Mayor Giuliani," Mrs. Gillespie told the crowd, "I'm asking that you give the surviving officers enough money to live on."

Throughout the crowd, officers and their families held American flags and signs with messages like: "To make ends meet, I mow a Nassau cop's lawn," referring to the fact that officers in many other places earn more than those in New York City. Police dissatisfaction with Mr. Giuliani has been growing since his administration negotiated a contract with a two-year wage freeze in 1995.

The current contract talks have stalled, with the union seeking a 39 percent raise over two years to bring salaries in line with those in Newark, and the city suggesting it is willing to increase pay by 2.5 percent annually, or more if the union makes concessions on so-called productivity issues. The current starting salary for a police officer is $31,305.

Mr. Giuliani said yesterday that to award officers anywhere near 39 percent would bankrupt the city because a similar wage increase would have to be awarded to other city unions, a position the police union contests.

"I believe I am doing my job as the mayor," Mr. Giuliani said, "which is I can't give them everything they want."

The police were aware that to advance their cause it was crucial to avoid a replay of the events of 1992.

This time, the demonstrators were overseen by a detail of several hundred members of the force, heavily weighted with supervisors, including many chiefs, as well as union delegates who served as rally marshals.

In the only sign of a counterdemonstration, hundreds of fliers that read, "N.Y.P.D. wants higher wages, the people want to end police brutality," rained from the Woolworth Building, sometimes falling into knots of officers gathering for the rally. Many dismissed the fliers with a joke.

Organizers had said they did not plan to have political speakers, but as the rally, which lasted under two hours, unfolded, several members of the City Council and its speaker, Peter F. Vallone, addressed the crowd. Mr. Vallone, who is running for mayor, thanked the police for making New York safer and said, "I want you to know you do have friends at City Hall." Still, the anger at Mr. Giuliani was palpable.

Louis Corrente, an officer in the 106th Precinct in Queens who has been on the force for 18 years and has a second job, said he felt used by the mayor.

"He likes to give himself nice big raises, but when it comes to a working wage for police officers, we've fallen behind every department in the country," he said. "He's used us as a steppingstone to get to higher political positions."

His wife, Katie, who was at the rally as his girlfriend in 1992 when Mr. Giuliani promised a pay raise for the city's police officers, said: "I should've married a garbage man instead of a cop. They make a whole lot more than cops do."