August 15, 2002
By Leonard Levitt and William Murphy STAFF WRITERS
With the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association promising "a very, very large turnout" for today's Times Square rally, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said yesterday he was denying time-off requests to ensure sufficient patrol strength.
Kelly made his remarks after police union spokesman Al O'Leary complained that Kelly was "denying our police heroes the time to go and protest and exercise their freedom of speech at our rally."
Kelly responded by saying that in light of the union's own projected numbers of attendees, he was merely being "prudent."
Firefighters union spokesman Tom Butler said the police demonstrators would be joined by between 3,500 to 4,000 firefighters and their families.
The rally, which is to drum up support for a significant raise for both cops and firefighters, is scheduled for noon.
A state arbitration board has called for a 5-percent annual raise for the next two years for the police.
The firefighters will then have to negotiate their own contract.
Meanwhile, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference yesterday, "We will make sure the rally is orderly. I think there is no reason to believe that the people who want to speak their mind will be anything but orderly."
Bloomberg said of the cops: "They're frustrated. They would like to be paid more. I'd like to pay them more."
He then cited a potential $5-billion deficit in next year's city budget: "We're under budget constraints and we're doing the best we can."