Updated Dec. 30, 2016
By RICHARD STEIER
With all the legitimate fodder for criticism Mayor de Blasio has provided the media over the past year, why would the New York Post editorial board feel compelled to concoct a case against the city’s recent contract offer to the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association that leaves out some crucial details?
The paper’s Dec. 29 edition, under the headline “Blas’ Goodies for Cops,” accused the Mayor of trying to win back the support of Police Officers “at taxpayer expense” by offering bonuses for those on patrol duty and for wearing body cameras. It called both stipends “excessive,” stating, “After all, aren’t patrols a key part of what they’re already paid to do? And if their bosses want them wearing cameras to satisfy the court order, why should that merit extra pay?”
We’ll get to the merits of those proposals—which we first reported in a story that was posted online Dec. 23 and led to a front-page Post follow-up four days later—later in this piece. First, though, it’s worth dispelling the notion created by the paper’s editorial that the patrol bonus and the stipend for wearing the cameras—which would affect only 1,000 cops—represent something for nothing, in a blatant attempt by Hizzoner to buy himself into the hearts of the rank and file.
In fact, the city’s offer—which both it and the union have declined to confirm has been made despite a document laying it out in detail that was sent to this newspaper by a PBA member—comes with a couple of key strings attached. One, the loss of an annuity payment for future hires that is worth $522 a year for those already on the job, was actually mentioned in the Post’s news story but ignored in its editorial. The other, which neither piece cited, is a stretch of the salary scale so that future union members would take 6½ years to reach top pay, a year longer than the current progression.
Those not-so-minor details help explain why PBA President Pat Lynch has not pounced on the offer made in mediation before Mr. de Blasio can come to his senses. In other words, the city’s offer contains some take as well as give. Had it failed to do so, the administration would have faced the wrath of a group it would worry far more about antagonizing than the Post’s pundits: the other uniformed unions which agreed to contracts as far back as December 2014 believing that the pattern they established would be firmly defended by the city in its negotiations with the PBA.
As to the merits of the “goodies” that go beyond the basic, pattern-conforming wage offer of 9-percent raises over a five-year period:
The $2,500 stipend that apparently is being offered for cops assigned to patrol duties would seem to address the union’s longtime bid for “hazardous-duty pay.” Both Labor Commissioner Bob Linn and his predecessor, Jim Hanley, routinely balked at that demand for an obvious reason: the union wanted it applied across-the-board, which would include cops assigned to desk duties and therefore away from the perils posed by patrols.
Union leaders will always look to get the same compensation for all their members for both trade-union reasons and to avert resentment among those who get less that could create political problems. But a patrol differential certainly is warranted, and might actually induce some cops to stay on the streets rather than seeking desk jobs.
A $750 education differential for a bachelor’s degree that the Post editorial didn’t mention is an effort to finally tell cops—21 years after Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton made 60 college credits a requirement for all new officers—that having better-educated Police Officers was worth putting some extra money in their pockets.
And the 1-percent pay bonus for officers who agree to wear the body cameras is an acknowledgement that there is a burden attached to the requirement, since they can be penalized for forgetting to turn on the cameras any time they begin an interaction with members of the public. The requirement that the cameras be experimented with stems from the stop-and-frisk ruling more than three years ago that found the NYPD was conducting the program in an unconstitutional way, with officers frequently making stops without the reasonable suspicion of a crime having been committed or about to be committed that is required under a half-century-old U.S. Supreme Court decision.
Yes, the city can order it, but a carrot to go along with the stick increases the chances that officers will fully cooperate. It is not unlike the situation 20 years ago when Firefighters, many grudgingly, began performing medical duties in addition to their traditional fire-suppression work, and were given a stipend of about $1,400.
Some of them faulted their union at the time for settling so cheaply. At 1 percent of salary, the city’s offer would leave cops getting significantly less, and that’s without adjusting for inflation.
All of which means that what’s going on here is a negotiation meant to address some problems in the interest of both sides; not a politically-motivated giveaway.