New York Times
Apr. 5, 2012

City Room

Union Ad Stresses the Stress Officers Deal With


In a scathing critique of Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and his administration, the powerful head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association has rolled out a radio advertisement calling it easier for New York City police officers to deal with criminals than with police hierarchy.

The radio spot, titled “Stressful Enough,” features the union’s president, Patrick J. Lynch, delivering his message in a staccato, matter-of-fact tone.

“New York City police officers routinely deal with dangerous and stressful situations,” Mr. Lynch says. “It’s part of the job and we accept that. You may be surprised to learn that more stress is put on police officers by N.Y.P.D. management than by criminals.”

Mr. Lynch then goes on to cite what he calls a “perfect example,” which is traffic court.

After a scandal broke last year, in which officers in the Bronx were accused of fixing parking tickets, the Police Department began focusing on traffic court and scrutinizing the performance of officers who appear there. Eventually, in October, 16 officers were indicted on charges related to fixing tickets.

But officers still speak of traffic court as an unpredictable environment, where much is out of their control, and yet they are being monitored by internal police investigators.

In the P.B.A. radio ad, which will play through the middle of next week, on WINS, CBS, Z-100, Q-104.3 and WFAN – and will be broadcast during the Mets and Yankees opening-day baseball games – Mr. Lynch describes what occurs in traffic court. (The ad was paid for by the union.)

“A motorist gets a ticket and decides to fight it,” Mr. Lynch says. “The traffic judge hears the explanation and cuts the driver a break by dismissing the ticket. Now, an N.Y.P.D. boss, whose only job is to punish police officers for losing traffic court cases, will look for the slightest clerical error in order to blame the officer. That officer will be fined three vacation days, worth over $900.”

Mr. Lynch goes on: “Our officers are under constant pressure from management to write more and more summonses. Now, management’s making it worse by unfairly punishing police officers who lose a case and that has to stop.”

He concludes: “It’s a lot less stressful facing the criminals.”

But Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, defended the department’s oversight of traffic court cases.

“Contrary to critics, officers are neither punished for purportedly ‘losing’ traffic court cases, nor for clerical errors,” Mr. Browne said in a statement. “In only those cases where an officer fails to appear or testify without a legitimate or valid reason, is the officer subject to potential disciplinary action."