NYPD AND FDNY STARTING PAY IS A DISGRACE

Maybe it is just me but I think if you agree to take a job exoects you to give up your life to protect mine, your starting pay should be more than $25,100 a year. In fact, it should be more than $36,400 a year. These are the starting annual salaries for the New York City Police Department and the New York City Fire Department, the NYPD being the lowest of the two.

Someone recently told me the starting salary for the NYPD was $25,100. I thought they were joking. “Are you kidding? That’s New York City, bro” I said. “You’re lucky if you can put food on the table for that kind of money.” He as not kidding. And so, I looked at the FDNY’s starting salary too. Yes, more than the NYPDs, but at $36,400, it is a disgrace.

Before I continue here, let me say that I am very biased. The NYPD’s 84th Precinct in Brooklyn saved my life in 1984 when I was held up and shot in the head at point blank range. It was just after five in the morning and a slew of police units were there in a flash. Some might say, So what? That’s there job. But no one with that mindset is thinking it through. These men and women raced to a scene where there was gunfire and one person wounded. They did not know me from Adam. They did not know what they were coming into. A gang fight? Was there still shooting? When they got to me, did they know if the shooter was nearby, and maybe crazy enough to shoot one of them? These are men and women with families. Some are parents, all are sons and daughters, all are human beings. And they raced to help me knowing damned well that where there is gunfire there is the chance of being killed. And there starting pay is $25,100! Are you kidding me? That is a base salary of $483 a week – before taxes. And for firefighters, the base salary is $700 a week – before taxes.

Now I know that there are those who will say, well, they get overtime and good benefits. Others will no doubt point to cases of police brutality and misconduct. My response to this is simple. Cops or firefights who break the law or engage in misconduct do so because of who they are as individuals – NOT because they are cops or firefighters. There is not a profession out there that does not have its fair share of fuck-ups. Have you taken a gander at Washington lately?

For anyone who disagrees with me and thinks I am wrong when I say the starting salaries should not be a penny less than $52,000 a year (Look, $1,000 a week for someone who has taken a job that asks them to give their life to protect yours and mine is not even in the same ballpark as overpaid) – I have a little exercise for you.

Sit back in your chair and relax for a moment. Take a deep breath, exhale slowly. Okay now. Close your eyes and remember the breathtaking courage displayed by so many firefighters and police officers on 9/11. Remember the images of firefighters going up the stairs while civilians were racing down the stairs to safety.

Now open your eyes and repeat the following sentence aloud. I think New York City Police officers should be paid a starting weekly salary of $483 and I think New York City firefighters should be paid a starting weekly salary of $700.

If you are not feeling sick inside right now, shame on you. If you are not feeling sick inside right now, you sure as hell do not have the strength of character displayed by the NYPD and FDNY on 9/11, and you sure as hell do not have the strength of character in the men and women from the 84th Precinct that saved my life. And if you are making $1,000 or more a week – you are probably overpaid.

FATHER MYCHAL JUDGE: PATIENCE & FORTITUDE

Any time I want to right size-myself by reminding myself of what I hope to bring to the world around me, I watch “The Saint of 9/11”, an extraordinary documentary about an extraordinary man, Father Mychal Judge. Father Mychal was the New York City Fire Department’s beloved chaplain and the first officially recorded death on 9/11. He was killed by falling debris while administering last rights to a firefighter who’d been mortally wounded by a falling body.

His body was carried by firefighters and placed before the altar of St. Peter’s Church on Barclay Street.

Father Mychal Judge was gay and a recovering alcoholic. He was buried on his 23 year sober anniversary. But anyone who defines him by his gayness or by the fact that he was in recovery is missing something very important: Father Mychal Judge. No one’s true definition is driven by anything other than the sum total of who they are, which is comprised of far more than someones sexuality or the disease of alcoholism, addiction.

The power of a human being’s life is found in their humanity. If, like me, you love Bruce Springsteen, are you wondering what church he belongs to when he is singing? If, like me, you love to read, are you wondering what the authors sexuality is or was or whether they drank too much when you read their work? Has anyone slammed down Sherlock Holmes because it’s author used drugs? Has anyone turned sniffily away from the work of Edgar Allan Poe because he was an alcoholic?

The power of Father Mychal’s impact on those who knew him and those, like me, who only met him through a documentary, was his capacity to lovingly accept the people he came in contact with for who they were and his capacity to accept life as it was. In the documentary a friend of his relates how he and Father Mychal would stand in front of the main branch of the New York City Public Library. Flanking either side of the steps are sculptures of two large lions named Patience and Fortitude. Father Mychal would tell his friend how could use more of both attributes. I suspect those who knew him best would say he had more than most.
I do not in any way experience “The Saint of 9/11” as a work about a gay man or gay priest or an alcoholic man or an alcoholic priest who happened to show courage on 9/11. Instead, I experience it as being about a man who dealt with the disease of alcoholism and who happened to be gay. Each truth is but a component of the man, neither is the definition. The defining truth about Father Mychal Judge was his loyalty to God , his deep love for his fellow human beings, and his breathtaking loyalty to his firefighters. When, on 9/11, Mayor Giuliani told Father Mychal he could join the mayor’s party and go to safety, Father Mychal said, no, “I have to stay with my men.”

A friend of his said Father Mychal would often say, “Have a cup of tea and sing a song, and maybe we can find some peace and understanding.” Not a bad idea for us all.

Malachy McCourt said serving others meant the most to Father Mychal. “That was his whole thing, to serve as best he could.” And so he did, and so should we all.