Words are nice. But when they're not followed by action, they ring hollow.
Unfortunately, that's the situation new Yorkers find ourselves in with Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration. I hear it everywere I go, not only from our police officers, but from people in communities across the city: "The mayor says one thing, byut then he does another." Nowhere is this more evident than his words on ending income inequality in New York City. Despite his progressive rhetoric, he's ignoring the inequality taking place in his own police department.
Until at least 1975, New York City police officers were among the highest paid in the nation. During that time, the NYPD had very little diversity — a department of most white males. But now, as the NYPD becomes more diverse with every class that comes through the Police Academy — a fact that the mayor never fails to point out — our pay continues to fall behind other officers in the New York City area and across the country. Just look at the numbers: 53 percent of the latest class of officers are people of color. But on average they'll make 34 percent less than cops both locally and nationwide. How is that progressive?
Making matters worse, police officers hired since July 2009 are not provided an adequate disability pension if they are injured in the line of duty. In some cases, the benefit they receive could be less than $40 a day. This is a lower level of benefits than every other police officer in New York State.
That's why, this week, we began a major campaign on television stations across the city that will tell the stories of our police officers from the perspective of their families. In the ad released Monday, Jennifer, the wife of an NYPD officer, speaks without a script and describes the difficulties she and her husband face each month as they try to support themselves and their three young daughters on a police officer's salary. At the end of the ad, she addresses the mayor directly, saying, "Mayor de Blasio, I don't think it's fair. He protects this city 24/7 and he has a family that he needs to support."
Mayor de Blasio needs to explain why his lack of support for our police officers and their families is acceptable. Without fair pay and benefits, it's no wonder, as our recent scientific survey revealed, that morale among police officers has hit rock bottom.The majority of officers said they would leave and go work for another department if they could, because theres no support for them in this administration.
The mayor can do something about this by agreeing to a fair contract and supporting legistation to fix the inadequate disability benefit. Instead, he continues to take a regressive approach that is destuctive. By ignoring this probelm, it's more than an insult to the police officers out on the streets every day and their famiulies, it's an insult to all New Yorkers who are concerned about the future of our city.
The cost of living is rising, and yet the people who keep this city safe can't afford to live or raise their kids in many of the communities we patrol. The mayor and his team love to say their "door is always open" to work with us. But his hollow words mean his door is open as long as we're willing to accept raises that will only cause us to fall further behind other professional police officers.
Actions speak louder than words. When the mayor is ready to work with us to start moving police officers toward a market rate of pay and disability benefits that will allow them to support themselves and their families, we'll meet with him at any place, any time. In the meantime, we're going to continue taking our message to New Yorkers in every community. Progressive values have nothing to do with being a Democrat or a Republican. A true progressive is someone who doesn't just talk about it, but actually commits to protecting all the working men and women who make this city great.