Better pay can help bring true police reform

Better pay can help bring true police reform
By Councilman Rory I. Lancman

True police reform cannot be done with policies alone; it takes great police officers, too.

In recent years, New York City has implemented a neighborhood policing strategy that focuses on building trust and improving communication between police and the communities they serve.

Officers are no longer simply responding to the calls they receive. They are proactively meeting with community members, learning about specific precincts, and solving problems.

This significant shift in New York City policing required a shift in resources. The City needed to ensure that the police force had the right number of officers needed for community policing, and that those officers were properly trained. In 2015, the Mayor and the City Council agreed to provide funding needed to hire an additional 1,300 police officers.

The results to date have been extraordinary as crime in New York City in 2017 dropped to the lowest level ever recorded. We are all grateful for that.

However, as the City looks to build on the success of neighborhood policing, and push forward with other police reforms, we need to do more to ensure our officers are compensated fairly and want to stay with the NYPD long-term.

Today, there is a significant disparity in compensation between NYPD officers and officers working in other jurisdictions. The maximum salary today for NYPD officer, not including overtime, is $85,292, while the maximum salary for an average non-NYC officer is $100,004. That is nearly a $15,000 gap in maximum annual salary.

Worse yet, the pay disparity exists even among police departments operating within New York City. MTA officers can earn a maximum salary of $100,368; Port Authority officers can earn $100,359; and New York State troopers can earn $99,285. While officers may not join the force in the hopes of getting rich, they deserve to be paid fairly for their service.

Given the salary disparity that currently exists, it is no surprise that the number of officers resigning before they can retire with full benefits has increased by 225 percent from 2009 to 2017. In fact, the number of resignations has risen in each year of the de Blasio administration, and increased 100 percent from the last year of the Bloomberg administration.

I expressed my concerns about the pay disparity and rising number of resignations directly to Police Commissioner James O’Neill at the Public Safety Committee’s preliminary budget hearing. It is obviously not in the NYPD’s best interest to lose officers with experience and training to other city agencies or nearby jurisdictions like Nassau County. These are exactly the kinds of officers we want and need in the NYPD.

We do not know the full extent to which the salary disparity has led to these increased resignations, but we will soon find out. I have asked the Police Department to produce a summation of data from “Exit Forms,” which every departing officer is required to fill out, in order to see where officers are planning to work after leaving the Department.

If New York City wants to continue to have the best police force in the country, then we need to pay our officers in line with what officers working in other jurisdictions and city agencies are making. The path toward continued police reform depends on it.

Councilman Rory I. Lancman


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