The New York Times

January 6, 2004

Police Union Hopes Billboard Sends Message About Salary


Most billboards in and around Times Square are designed to attract the attention of tourists and New Yorkers and get them to buy something, be it designer underwear, blue jeans or tickets to a Broadway show.

But a large new sign formally unveiled there yesterday is intended to draw attention to something New Yorkers already have — a Police Department that has logged record declines in crime. The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the union that represents the city's roughly 23,000 rank-and-file police officers and paid $75,000 for the sign, hopes the New Yorkers who see it will urge Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to give the officers a raise.

The union's president, Patrick J. Lynch, said the sign was meant to underscore the disparity between the city's crime-fighting achievements and what he says is the officers' meager pay when compared with that of other departments around the country.

"We want the public to know that the reason they are living in safety is because of New York City police officers, and we think they'd be surprised to know that we're not being paid as police professionals are in other communities," Mr. Lynch said yesterday after the unveiling.

Police salaries have been the subject of bitter battles between the union and the city, with a sometimes indignant force that has felt it deserves more for its sacrifices and a city that has said it can afford no large increases. Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly have often said that they would like to pay officers more, but that fiscal realities have prevented them from doing so.

The starting salary for a New York City police officer is $36,878. After six years, officers make $57,793.

The billboard, on the north side of West 42nd Street just east of Eighth Avenue, bears the image of the Empire State Building on one side and the Statue of Liberty's torch on the other, with "NYC COPS" in between in giant blue letters. It says that while the union's members are ranked No. 1 in the nation in fighting crime, they come in 145th in salary among the 200 largest cities in the nation.

The union based its salary rankings on a Web site, Ronald J. York, who started the site, said he and his staff calculate the hourly cost of police officers based on total compensation, including pension and medical costs. Those costs are divided by the average number of hours an officer works.

City officers have been without a contract since July 31, 2001, Mr. Lynch said, and the last three bargaining sessions with the city have been "unproductive."

Edward Skyler, a spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg, said in an e-mail message yesterday, "We are not going to discuss our contract negotiations with the P.B.A. publicly, through the press or billboards."