By Will Bredderman
PBA President Patrick Lynch, center, alongside Mayor Bill de Blasio. Youtube/NYC Mayor's Office
The city’s long-awaited accord with the the union representing the majority of NYPD officers will slash thousands from the starting salaries of new recruits in order to deliver a benefit that will disproportionately accrue to older members of the force—and will expire in exactly six months.
It was a scene at City Hall some never expected to see: Mayor Bill de Blasio standing side-by-side with his former nemesis, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch, announcing a new contract arrangement on pay and benefits for the city’s 23,000 rank-and-file officers. The pair revealed they had reached a handshake agreement at 4 am this morning which, if ratified by the PBA’s members, would bring the union back under contract for the first time in years.
At the heart of the deal is a 2.25 percent differential—that is, an extra stipend awarded as a fraction of the officer’s base salary—for all of the union’s members, as a reward for their participation in the mayor’s more interactive, collaborative “neighborhood policing” model.
“This is a very good day for this city, a good day for ensuring the continued safety for the people of this city, the safest big city in the country, and also ensuring support for our officers who are doing an outstanding job of keeping us safe,” the mayor said. “The entire patrol force will be moving toward neighborhood policing in different ways, and the entire patrol force will be moving toward body cameras. That’s the underlying predicate here: we are acting on major paradigm shifts and compensating accordingly.”
Bob Linn, the mayor’s commissioner of the Office of Labor Relations, explained the city will make up the difference on the new allowance by decreasing the pay of new officers. Under the old agreement that expired in 2009, and remained in effect pending a new contract, cops hit the street earning $44,744, and picked up a $1,544 increase after six months.
Under the tentative arrangement reached today, police will earn a base salary of $42,500 a year for their first 18 months, then move up to $45,000 for the next 12 months, then reach $46,000 after two-and-a-half years of service, $47,000 after three-and-a-half and $51,000 after four-and-a-half. The existing maximum base salary of $85,292, attained after five-and-a-half years on duty, remains in place.
Linn said the average officer who stays on the job that long will earn more than $100,000 annually, with all emoluments considered.
Since older officers earn more, they stand the earn the most thanks to the neighborhood policing differential.
Also folded into the deal is an agreement to equip all “white shield” cops with body cameras by the end of 2019, though it does not outline any specific regulations on how those devices will operate and who will have access to the footage. The PBA has agreed to drop its lawsuit over the cameras, as well as suits regarding its healthcare benefits and the administration of life-saving naloxone to overdose victims
The city and the union will also jointly ask Albany to approve a disability benefit plan to cover all rank-and-file cops similar to the one the state put in place for uniformed employees already under contract like firefighters and sanitation workers. PBA members will pay one percent of their salary toward the program.
The previous program afforded weaker benefits to officers hired post-2009, following the global financial crisis, than those hired prior.
The administration released the fact sheet on the deal well after the end of the press conference concluded around 5 pm, a common tactic for burying information governments hope to avoid seeing widely publicized.
If the members vote in favor, the pact will cover the period stretching from the start of Fiscal Year 2012 until the end of Fiscal Year 2017—which is to say cops will need a new contract after July 31. The mayor’s office told the Observer it has not yet made any plans to return to the bargaining table.
The mayor and Linn emphasized at the press conference how, the differential aside, the deal otherwise adheres the basic pattern for retroactive raises the city had established for all city employees with its first contract with the teachers union in May 2014. Officers will receive a one percent raise for 2012 and 2013, a one-and-a-half percent boost for 2014, a two-and-a-half percent increase for 2015 and a three percent hike for 2016.
The PBA brought their contract dispute with the administration before the state’s Public Employees Relations Board in 2014, where an arbitrator decided to award the union’s members a one percent raise for 2010 and 2011.
Lynch, on the other hand, stressed that the deal acknowledged the special pressures his members face.
“What’s important about this agreement today is that it shows the uniqueness of being a New York City police officer, and recognizes the added responsibility, the scrutiny we’re under, the life-saving techniques we’re trained on, and it recognizes what we do on the streets of New York and it’s different,” said Lynch. “There’s always a natural tension between management and the union and labor.”
“Sometimes we do that by agreeing, sometimes we disagree, sometimes we shake hands, sometimes we poke at each other,” the PBA head continued.
That was perhaps the softest possible characterization of the bitter, vitriolic tone of the pair’s relationship since de Blasio took office. The two clashed repeatedly in the aftermath of black Staten Islander Eric Garner‘s killing at the hands of Officer Daniel Pantaleo in 2014, especially after the mayor invited the Rev. Al Sharpton to discuss the matter at City Hall.
When a grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo that fall, de Blasio described warning his own half-black son about the potential dangers of interacting with police—incensing Lynch further. After an African-American gunman killed Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in what he claimed was an act of revenge for Garner’s death, Lynch declared “the blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor.”
The union boss subsequently defended the officers who turned their backs on the mayor while he spoke at the fallen cops’ funerals.
The relationship appeared to near a a rapprochement in the months that followed, but the PERB decision reignited the feud. Lynch and his members took to regularly picketing the mayor’s private speaking appearances and visits to the Park Slope YMCA, and retained the consulting firm of Bradley Tusk—the former aide to ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg who founded NYC Deserves Better, a group dedicated to booting de Blasio from office this fall.
Lynch indicated today he didn’t regret those moves.
“We wanted to get the mayor and the staff to focus on our contract. I think it worked,” he told reporters, smiling.