Staten Island Advance
May 20, 2008

New cop pact raises rookies 10Gs
But arbitration panel takes away half their vacation time

By SALLY GOLDENBERG and PETER N. SPENCER
ADVANCE CITY HALL BUREAU

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — New NYPD officers are getting a $10,000 salary bump, but it comes at the expense of half their vacation days.

The contract changes were included in a decision handed down by an arbitration panel yesterday, ending one of the most heated city contract disputes in recent memory.

The impasse between the city and the police officers' union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, has lasted nearly three years and became increasingly nasty in recent months as each side blamed the other for a staffing shortage affecting the entire city.

The 23,000 officers covered by the contract will be awarded, retroactively, a 9.73 percent raise for the period from Aug. 1, 2004, to July 31, 2006. Starting salaries for recruits hired after Jan. 1, 2006, are jumping to $35,881 from $25,100— a move the city believes will help lure recruits as the NYPD struggles with a staffing shortage that is expected to get worse in the coming fiscal year.

$65,382 TOP PAY

After their first year on the job, officers will get a 4.5 percent raise; the following year, salaries will go up 5 percent. Top pay for veteran officers will jump to $65,382 from $59,588, according to the settlement outlined by a three-person panel that had one representative each from the city and the union, and one independent party.

The arbitrator representing the PBA did not concur with the decision.

The increase comes at the expense of vacation time — under the new contract, officers will have 10 paid days off in their first five years of employment rather than the 20 they currently are allotted.

Now the city and the PBA are set to lock horns again on a contract for 2006-2008 and 2008-2010.

"It's really two steps forward, one step back," Staten Island Councilman Michael McMahon, a North Shore Democrat, said after hearing details of the new deal, explaining that the higher starting salaries should help draw new recruits while the limited vacation time could be a big drawback. "It's still progress, but it's not significant progress."

PBA President Patrick Lynch and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who have verbally sparred over the stalemate, each expressed a measure of satisfaction with the settlement.

"This decision sends a strong message to the City of New York that times have changed and old, outdated and ineffective traditions of pattern bargaining and lock-step parity no longer satisfy the modern needs of this city," Lynch said in a statement.

LYNCH'S LAMENT

But he took issue with the contract for not offering enough money. "Our members will still look across borders to see others working in law enforcement earning as much as $30,000 a year more for work in less challenging environments and with lower costs of living in communities not nearly as prosperous as New York."

Bloomberg praised the contract for raising the starting salary.

"It also gives our dedicated and hardworking police officers much deserved raises," Bloomberg said in a statement. "At the same time, the award provides savings through internal givebacks to best preserve the city's financial position going forward."

The decision was announced just hours after Police Commissioner Ray Kelly reminded the City Council Public Safety Committee that the force's headcount has tumbled from a pre-9/11 high of 40,800 to 36,838 this year and will drop by another 1,000 in the upcoming fiscal year.

During the hearing, Kelly assured Staten Island's three councilmen he has sent them a letter, in response to their requests in March and April, that outlines the number of officers staffing each of the borough's three precincts, and comparing those figures to staffing levels of five, 10, 15 and 20 years ago.

The Advance repeatedly has requested the same information and not received it. A story published in the Sunday Advance highlighted the department's refusal to provide that information — a police spokesman said the department is hesitant to give specific information on staffing levels for fear it would embolden criminals by alerting them to staffing shortages.

Nevertheless, the information was promised but never delivered to the Advance. A formal request has been filed under the Freedom of Information Law.

ODDO ASKS KELLY

Island Councilman James Oddo again asked Kelly for the staffing levels during the commissioner's budget testimony.

"I don't want to give the miscreants out there the exact staffing levels of midnight tours, but I think that [we] have a right to this information," Oddo said. "We're being told by certain folks that our levels are comparable to the '90s, the '80s, some people say even the '70s. When you hear people say you have roughly the same amount of police officers you had in the late '70s that's scary."

Kelly responded by saying he gets about 30,000 pieces of mail each year, and, by coincidence, signed off on a response to the councilmen on Sunday. The letters have not been received yet, each Councilman said.

"You certainly do, as the city councilmen, have a right to know the specific manning," Kelly said. "You definitely have a right to it, and I don't want you to think in some way we were holding back."

Councilman Vincent Ignizio said he believes the letters were sent out because of pressure from the councilmen and the Advance.

"There are very few people on Staten Island who would agree that we have sufficient amount of police officers as a whole," Ignizio said. "It allows us the information to make a better case that Staten Island requires additional police officers because of the vast amount of geography that our cops need to cover. We have three out of the top five largest police precincts in the city, and that requires additional resources."

Sally Goldenberg and Peter Spencer cover City Hall for the Advance.