As sirens blared in the background, the shouts of hundreds of police officers could be heard for blocks on Wednesday night as the lawmen protested in front of the mayor’s residence against a proposal that would give them a 1 percent retroactive raise.
“We are here once again today to stand here and say New York City police officers are worth more than one,” Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said, addressing the large crowd of rank-and-file officers who assembled outside Gracie Mansion, where Mayor Bill de Blasio lives.
“We have lost eight New York City police officers since the expiration of our contract,” Lynch said. “Their lives are worth more than 1 percent.”
With a large inflatable rat beside them, the officers rallied for more than an hour, chanting “one-term mayor,” “de Blasio must go,” “blue lives matter” and “we give 100 percent, they give one,” among other, more colorful versions.
“Cops are out there risking their lives. We’re losing cops,” said David Signor, an officer who works in the Bronx. “Well guess what: If my property tax goes up and my school tax goes up and my bills go up, and cops are giving their lives away, who’s going to support [my family] now, Mr. Mayor? Step up to the plate. Don’t be scared. Don’t hide in your free house. Come out and join and step up to the bargaining table and give us a contract we deserve.”
For de Blasio, a self-described progressive who’s been attacked by tabloid newspapers and Republican antagonists as soft on crime, the conflict has spilled over to become a test of leadership. Hundreds of officers showed their contempt a year ago, turning their backs as he entered funerals for two officers shot to death after months of street protests.
Lynch said the mayor showed more concern about curbing excessive force than the safety of officers. Such talk hasn’t made de Blasio give in.
“Don’t confuse union leaders with the rank and file,” de Blasio said at a City Hall news briefing last week. Police should be gratified that the city has spent hundreds of millions on crime-fighting technology, bulletproof vests, hiring 1,300 officers and training, the mayor said.
New York City police officers have been working without a contract since their last one expired in 2010. Earlier this month, a draft of a proposed contract surfaced that showed an independent arbitrator proposed that the new agreement grant officers a 1 percent raise for two years.
The independent arbitrator was called in after contract talks between the union and the city stalled.
The current negotiations are for a 24-month contract that would retroactively cover August 2010 to July 2012. City officials will still need to negotiate another contract that would begin in 2012 and include future raises.
De Blasio has said the offer made to the rank-and-file police union is in line with negotiations his administration has had with 11 other uniformed unions. The administration has settled contracts with other police unions, including those representing detectives, lieutenants and captains.
“We try to create fairness for everyone,” de Blasio said Wednesday when asked about the proposal. “And that’s why you saw so many of the uniform unions agree to the pattern we put forward. And it wasn’t just their union leaders — their rank-and-file voted for it over and over again. So we believe it’s fair.”
Lynch disagreed, saying the mayor was partaking in “lazy bargaining.”
“They think one size fits all,” he said. “If 1 percent worked for other unions, it doesn’t work for New York City police officers.”
Lynch has argued his members are paid less than their counterparts in neighboring suburbs and other major cities. That argument has been part of his past fights to renegotiate a contract for them.
Currently, New York City police officers have a base salary of $42,000, which increases to $76,000 after five years. Officers in neighboring suburban counties have equal or lower starting salaries, which increase considerably over time.