the third in a series of articles about how the Lynch administration
has benefited New York City police officers and their families through
a comprehensive legal strategy designed to protect and advance PBA
members’ rights under local, state and federal law and in
a variety of other ways.
In earlier articles, I described the union’s
successful effort to uphold the constitutionality of the PERB law,
its defeat of the planned imposition of a federal monitor, its recouping
of wrongfully deducted 1127 funds for former Transit and Housing
officers, its securing of full pension rights for former Transit
and Housing officers, other pension victories in litigation and
legislation, the class-action court fight against unlawful drug
pricing practices and challenges to alleged longstanding NYPD violations
of the Fair Labor Standards Act by the NYPD.
In this piece, I will review the PBA’s legal
accomplishments in matters pertaining to your physical safety, security
and working conditions.
Getting you home in one piece
After learning of defects in certain members’ bullet resistant
vests, the PBA mounted a challenge that led to the replacement at
no cost to our members of over 6,000 vests. This led to a nationwide
effort by police groups across the country to replace vests worn
by their police officers. In addition, as a result of the PBA’s
actions, the Department has implemented a system for conducting
periodic testing to determine the effectiveness of vests over time.
We raised concerns about certain issues relating to the operation
of the Glock firearm, which led to the manufacturer agreeing to
retrofit certain models.
We also have raised health and safety issues concerning conditions
in various commands and precincts and have maintained numerous proceedings
under the Public Employment Safety & Health Act (PESH). These
actions have led to safety and health defects in certain commands
being improved or remedied and to various other changes in Department
We also challenged the practice of mandatory one-man verticals
in housing projects with dangerous conditions, as well as the procedures
for wearing helmets following a dispute as to whether and when members
could wear a helmet in violent situations. Both were resolved in
a manner that provided greater safety protections to police officers.
We raised with the Department the dangerous gas-tank conditions
in certain department vehicles. Thereafter, we were advised that
the autos at issue were retrofitted with safety protections to address
the dangerous condition.
Your off-duty security and on-duty protections
The PBA has successfully brought actions to prevent
the dissemination of its members’ home addresses. It has also
cracked down on profiteers who have tried to cash in from the sale
of PBA cards on EBay. We have stopped individuals from destroying
the historical and equitable character of our Widows’ and
Children’s Fund. (They tried to do this by pitting police
family against police family and filing actions against the Funds
— the PBA prevailed in court). The PBA objected to member
participation in physical fitness testing for active duty police
officers and obtained safety concessions and the ability to opt-out
for those officers asked to participate.
In this series of articles, we have detailed only
some of the actions taken by the PBA on behalf of the union and
its members over the past few years. As evidenced by some of the
issues the PBA has taken on, litigation is usually a long and protracted
process and a sometimes costly path to securing our members’
and the union’s rights, often with little guarantee of success.
|Dave Nicholson: Point man on grievances
Assistant General Counsel David Nicholson is the attorney
responsible for one of the more important ways the PBA protects
the rights of its members — filing grievances on their
behalf and taking those grievances to arbitration if they
are not resolved to our satisfaction within the Department.
As a rule, grievances are filed to protest departmental
violations of the collective bargaining agreement or other
written rules, regulations or procedures of the NYPD affecting
terms and conditions of employment — excluding disciplinary
Dave is well qualified to navigate these complicated departmental
waters, having served as a member of the service. He was appointed
to the NYPD in 1985 and, as a police officer, he was assigned
to the Midtown North Precinct, having completed field training
in NSU 3. Following his promotion to sergeant in 1988, he
served as a patrol supervisor in the 30th and 24th Precincts
in Manhattan North, before his assignment in 1989 to the Police
Commissioner’s Office of Management Analysis and Planning.
Prior to his retirement in 1994, he served as a squad supervisor
in the “old” Street Crime Unit.
Dave is a graduate of Fordham University School of Law and
joined the PBA’s General Counsel’s office when
the administration of President Patrick Lynch took over in
His NYPD-blue blood is unparalleled: Father, Gary, retired
Transit captain; uncle, Brian, retired lieutenant; uncle,
Robert, retired police officer; brother, Dan, active lieutenant;
brother, Scott, active detective. Collectively, that’s
more than 100 years of service with New York’s Finest.
Not every challenge results in victory, though fighting
the fight is often valuable regardless of outcome. Like private
sector entities, the PBA considers litigation one tool to achieve
its objectives, particularly when other avenues for dispute resolution,
including negotiations, have been exhausted or foreclosed by the
other party’s refusal to negotiate. By being constantly vigilant
about our collective rights, we create an expectation in those who
deal with the union and its police officers that pursuing an unlawful
path will result in certain litigation. This factor must be considered
by those who are thinking about willfully violating the members’
or the union’s rights.
An active membership is the best way to ensure that
member rights are protected. None of these fights would have been
possible without the work of officers actively policing their rights
and being willing to step up, identify the issue and invest the
time and effort to assist the litigations to their conclusions.
We hope to use this column in the future to keep members informed
and updated about their rights, to alert members to issues affecting
them in different parts of the city, to identify patterns in departmental
practices that may be unlawful, and to encourage members to come
forward and seek the PBA’s assistance when they have a well-informed
belief that their rights are being violated.