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A Policeman’s Lot

March 21, 2016

A policeman’s lot is not a happy one, Gilbert and Sullivan wrote more than a century ago.

Judging from the PBA’s recent survey of 6,000 NYPD cops, who expressed mostly grievance and discontent, little appears to have changed since that that iconic line was uttered on the stage of New York City’s Fifth Avenue Theater on Dec. 31, 1879.

Here are some of the survey’s nuggets:

Bullet95 per cent say the city is “heading down the wrong track.”

Bullet87 per cent say New York City has become “less safe” under Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Bullet96 per cent say the relationship between the NYPD and the public has worsened.

Bullet97 per cent say the mayor has “created an environment … where criminals feel emboldened to carry guns and use them against civilians and the police.”

Bullet97 per cent say cops “are reluctant to take action for fear of lawsuits or complaints by the public.”

Bullet81 per cent say that “new procedures related to the use of stop, question and frisk limit cops from safely and effectively mak[ing] stops, when necessary.”

Even when a lone bright spot appeared, the survey’s authors — John McLaughlin and Associates — put a damper on it. Although Police Commissioner Bill Bratton received a 66 per cent approval rating, McLaughin and Associates wrote: “Commissioner Bratton receives relatively high ratings, but his favorables lack intensity.”

A union spokesman said the survey’s purpose was in part to counter claims by Bratton and de Blasio that police morale was high. “You don’t like people telling you how you feel,” the spokesman said.

Only on page 37 of the survey’s 61 pages do we get a hint of where the cops’ beefs stem from: money — or, more specifically, the lack of it.

 “Thirty-five per cent of the respondents cited ‘raise/pay’ as the number one change to improve the lives and working conditions,” McLaughlin and Associates wrote. While a labor monitor awarded cops a mere one per cent pay raise, the City Council voted itself a raise of 32 per cent.

NYPD cops continue to earn far less than their suburban brethren, and to do far more. Back in the day, the union brought in Long Island native Richie Hartman as its general counsel. Hartman had earned Nassau and Suffolk cops the highest salaries in the country. Alas, Richie proved of no help to the cops in New York City when it came to raises. He moved on to the Transit Police, which was then separate from the NYPD, and ended up in federal prison on fraud charges.

So where does the PBA go from here? Unfortunately, they have no friendly corner to turn to. De Blasio’s poll numbers may be low but who’s out there now who can defeat him?

Nor have past mayors been any more generous. In 2004, the union gave a no-confidence vote to Michael Bloomberg’s Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly — PBA President Pat Lynch complaining that Kelly was too quick to call the police shooting of an unarmed Brooklyn teenager unjustified.

 “This is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Lynch said at the time. “We have police officers that are not paid what they’re worth and a police commissioner who refuses to say that.”

Bloomberg’s predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, was no better. Although Rudy credited the cops with driving down crime and making the city safe, he refused to give them a raise during the first two years of a five-year contract. That prompted a line that became, in some circles, as iconic as Gilbert Sullivan’s — “Zeroes for Heroes.” 

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Copyright © 2016 Leonard Levitt