August 15 , 2002


NYC police demand pay raise

Off-duty firefighters and police officers rally in Times Square.  

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Thousands of police and firefighters chanting "Less Praise, More Raise" rallied Thursday in Times Square to demand an immediate pay raise for New York City police officers.

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association is asking for a 23 percent increase over two years.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg has sought across-the-board budget cuts for city workers. His office did not return a call for comment.

Dressed in street clothes, the thousands of off-duty rank-and-file officers and firefighters lined Broadway from 34th to 50th streets.

"We have the best police officers and firefighters in the world, and the mayor has no problem with them peacefully exercising their First Amendment right to freedom of expression," said Ed Skyler, the mayor's spokesman.

A mixture of police and fire officials, politicians and celebrities addressed the crowd during the two-hour rally. The heroism of police and firefighters on September 11 was evoked on placards and in speeches.

Greeted first by boos and then cheers, U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton told the crowd, "I believe that our police officers are entitled to a raise, not because of September 11, but because of every single day the job that you do."

   James Gandolfini
  "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini speaks for police pay raise.

"They say, 'Never forget.' We say, 'Already forgotten,'" shouted PBA President Patrick Lynch.

A total of 343 New York City firefighters and 23 police officers were killed on September 11.

In a rare public appearance, television star James Gandolfini of the hit show about the mob, "The Sopranos," issued a cool warning about why it is important to help the police.

"I think everybody better support a raise for you guys. I think everybody should think about that. You pick up the phone, you call for help, nobody answers," Gandolfini said.

Rookie policemen in New York City start at just over $31,000 a year.

The PBA says police have been working without a contract since July 31, 2000. The union is upset over reports that a state arbitration panel might approve a two-year contract that could include an increase in work days.

New York City firefighters have been without a contract for 27 months and without a pay raise for 40 months.