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The Mayor’s Irresponsible New Police-Union Contract Demands Closer Scrutiny

Indypendent, JOHN TEUFEL Apr 12, 2023

Massive pay hikes and continued abuse of overtime pay send cop salaries soaring while other city agencies are starved of funds.

By now you’ve probably heard — NYPD officers are a big step closer to becoming members of the same 1% they work for and protect. They aren’t quite there yet — the 1% is really rich! But thanks to the new contract deal Eric Adams has struck with the PBA, members of the force with at least five years on the job could easily see themselves spring into the top 10% of earners nationwide if they are willing to hit the gas on overtime.

Let’s crunch some numbers. The new deal, which runs retroactively from 2017 to 2025, sees officers with five and a half years on the job hit a base salary of $130,000, a pay bump of about 50% from current five-year officers. Overtime, which for NYPD officers is any time worked over 40 hours a week, gets paid out at time-and-a-half. Even with the present, much lower salaries, Legal Aid’s Law Enforcement Lookup tool reveals that thousands of cops have managed to top $50,000 in annual overtime at some point in the last three years, and many have gone way above that, earning $70,000 or $80,000 or more on top of their normal salaries.

Let me now stretch the limits of my abilities and try to do some math to show you how overtime at a higher wage is much more valuable than overtime at a lower wage. If you assume an officer is making $84,000 a year, which is approximately the current five-year officer salary, that works out to around $40 an hour (not counting vacation and sick time). Overtime at that rate is $60 an hour. The new five-year salary, on an hourly basis and again without including vacation and sick time, is $62.50 (incredibly, more than the current overtime rate). That means the new overtime rate for five-year cops will be a whopping $93.75 an hour, a 50% increase. An officer who pulled $50,000 in overtime under the old contract will now make $75,000 in overtime alone for the same number of hours, on top of their newly bloated salary. (It’s easy for cops to create unnecessary overtime – officers themselves call it, in a somewhat visually disgusting euphemism, “milking it.”)

Cops routinely retire in their mid-40s with a gold-plated pension that is juiced by their ability to rack up overtime hours in their final three years on the force. 

You have to make $173,176 a year to make it into the top 10% of earners in the United States. This new contract will place a lot of rank-and-file cops deep into that ten percent.

Cops already enjoy arguably the sweetest perks in the New York City civil-servant firmament. After 22 years of work, they retire with a pension worth 50% of their annual salary, which is calculated to include their overtime pay. (They can retire at 20 years with a slightly smaller pension.) Even under the current contract, retired NYPD officers can go on to become quite well-off by taking up second careers, often in lucrative private security positions, where they are able to formalize their informal prior job of protecting rich peoples’ stuff. In the past, this generous retirement program (which sees some officers retire with full pension at age 43) was in theory meant to make up for lower pay. Now that officers will earn more than most other civil servants in the city, it is simply a gratuity, another example of how the PBA has New Yorkers over the barrel.

And of course, NYPD police enjoy a perk that could be described alternately as sweet or mind-numbingly horrifying — they can commit egregious misconduct in the line of duty, up to and including murder, without facing any consequences.

It is both a cliché and false to say that budgets express our priorities “as a city” — they express the priorities of the small number of people who vote them into law. But boy oh boy, are those people’s priorities whacked. Teachers with five years on the job and a Masters degree earn $71,290 a year, more than $50,000 less than cops under the new deal. And cops don’t have to have a Masters, or a Bachelors for that matter. Teachers aren’t eligible for overtime. Even if you prorate that pay to factor in summers off — that is, if you increase that teacher’s salary by 25% to account for June through August off — they come in over $30,000 less than cops. And they have to deal with demanding kids all day, whereas cops get to play Candy Crush on their phones with their pals. (Believe me, with clearance rates like this, they ain’t out there solving murders.) Also, I don’t know of any cops who have to buy their own guns, as teachers often do school supplies.

As an attorney, when I read about the latest Eric Adams-created outrage, my mind automatically goes to a simple question: How is he legally able to do this? In this case, I wondered whether Adams has the sole legal authority to obligate the City to this massive payout, estimated to cost NYC taxpayers $5.5 billionover and above the massive sums we already hand over to the NYPD. Can he just…do that?

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