In the battle protesters are waging against U.S. corporations in lower Manhattan, appeals to NYPD officers’ sense of class solidarity have so far failed to shake them from their traditional role.
A look at the numbers suggests at least a few must be tempted to join the protesters’ side. According to Albert O’Leary, a spokesman for the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, a first-year officer makes $41,975 a year, and hits a maximum base pay of $76,488 after six years of service. Upon retirement, many can look forward to drawing a pension of $35,000 each year.
But most police officers take their duty to enforce the law seriously. “I don’t doubt that there are some officers out there that are conflicted or who feel a little sympathy for this cause,” said retired New York Police Department officer Harvey Katowitz, who served on the force for 27 years. “We know what working for a living and working for low wages means. But they [police officers] have a job to do and they have to do it.”
In the long history of American labor struggles, police have occasionally come to the aid of demonstrators. In February, when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker threatened to shoo protesters away from the state’s Capitol, off-duty police officers showed up with sleeping bags and stayed the night. They soon returned to their duties though, and events like that have been the exception, not the rule. —ARK
The Huffington Post:
New York City’s police officers are now tasked with patrolling the Occupy Wall Street protests, but they are also precisely the sorts of figures who are the objects of the movement’s organizational engine as it seeks to broaden into a mass event. New York City cops are union members whose wages generally do not pay for the cost of living inside the city they patrol.
In conversation with police officers near Wall Street in recent days, few expressed solidarity with the protesters, even as many acknowledged they are, like much of the country, struggling to pay their bills. Most expressed resignation that they have a job to do, palatable or not.
New York City police officers advance toward protesters as their colleagues ready containment nets on the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday.