Staten Island Advance
September 29, 2008

NEW CONTRACT MAY EASE NYPD's HIRING WOES

Higher starting salary, increased base pay and tough
economy may lead more to join Finest

By JOHN ANNESE

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- With Wall Street in shambles, the NYPD may see a marked increase of new police applications, particularly now that the city and the union have settled on a contract that boosts the starting and maximum salaries for officers.

The new contract, which the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association ratified last week, sets starting pay at $40,361, and top base pay at $76,488 after 5 1/2 years.

Add to that the opportunities for overtime and promotion, and the job security and benefits associated with a city police position, and the city will likely see more recruits willing to put on the NYPD blues, said Eugene O'Donnell, a former NYPD officer who is now a professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

"Certainly, the timing couldn't be better. It makes the police job a living wage again," O'Donnell said. "It's clearly going to be a shot in the arm for their recruiting.... I see it on the campus. There's more enthusiasm now."

O'Donnell said the Wall Street crisis means the department might see a deeper pool of applicants, including older recruits who may be looking to shift careers.

PBA spokesman Albert O'Leary said he expects the department won't have any problems meeting its recruiting goals.

"Traditionally, we've seen when the economy goes bad, civil service jobs get more applications," O'Leary said. "We certainly wouldn't be surprised to see the applications go up."

Prior to the new contract, new trainees were paid an annual salary of $25,100 during their six months in the academy, then $32,700 once they graduated.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly blamed that starting salary -- which was decided on by an arbitration panel in 2004 -- for recruitment shortfalls that limited the ranks of new officers.

The union had countered that inadequate top pay also contributed to the department's recruiting woes.

PBA President Patrick Lynch hailed the new contract, which was ratified last week by 99.4 percent of the union's members.

"We are pleased by the massive support for this historic settlement which includes provisions that ensure continued salary growth and substantial health and welfare benefits for our members long into the future," Lynch said in a statement Thursday. "The overwhelming approval of this contract by our members demonstrates our unity of purpose and our willingness to stand strong together for the fair treatment that we have earned and deserve."

Kelly also lauded the new contract.

"Officers in the New York City Police Department shoulder responsibilities that exceed those of other officers across the country," he said. "They have helped drive crime down to record lows. They more than deserve the increased compensation reflected in the contract."

Paul Browne, the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner for public information, said the department had already seen more interest from potential recruits as the old contract, with its $25,100 starting salary, drew to a close, and that interest spiked when the NYPD and the PBA had reached a tentative agreement last month.

Still, the NYPD doesn't sit atop the salary food chain, and other departments, like the Port Authority police and Nassau County, might draw recruits away with higher pay, O'Donnell said.

He said the pay's not the only reason people might steer clear from a law enforcement career.

"Increasingly, people are having second thoughts about police work as a career, The job is a grinding, demanding, 24-7 scrutiny position where seemingly minor mistakes can be disastrous to your career," O'Donnell said. "Compensation will not take us all the way there."

John Annese is a news reporter for the Advance. He may be reached at annese@siadvance.com.