Do cops merit SUVs? Matter of perspective

Just as Schenectady council members are mulling the need or non-need to supply the Police Department

Nice timing! Just as Schenectady council members are mulling the need or non-need to supply the Police Department’s evidence technicians with Chevy Tahoes that they can take home with them as personal vehicles, out comes the list of the city’s top-paid employees for the year past, and lo, the three evidence techs are among the top 10.

They are:

• John Ericson (No. 1): $149,429

• Tom Adach (No. 8): $127,804

• Jeremy Pace (No. 9): $125,202

There are theoretically four evidence techs, but the fourth one is out with an injury and has been for 15 months, collecting full pay, of course, so the burden falls entirely on his comrades, which helps explain their outsize earnings.

They have to pick up the slack. If an evidence tech is needed when none is on-duty, one of them comes in on overtime, which means, under the terms of the PBA contract, a minimum of four hours at a rate of pay slightly more than time and a half. It adds up.

Especially when you consider that the three working techs have the usual generous allowances for time off themselves, for vacation, for sickness, for injury. It obviously happens a lot that an evidence tech is needed when none is on duty.

Out of Ericson’s total pay of $149,429, only $66,345 was regular salary, so most was for overtime.

“Let’s give him a Tahoe too,” said Councilman Vince Riggi sardonically. “Let’s sweeten the pot. Like it’s not enough.”

Riggi has been one of the spoilsports who think maybe these evidence-collecting cops can get along with mere vans as opposed to oversized four-wheel-drive SUVs.

That they get take-home vehicles at all is a concession that was made in April of 2010 in exchange for their agreeing to come in when called. Previously, like any other police officers, they could not be compelled to work overtime.

OK, we’ll work when you want us too, but you have to give us vehicles to take home, was their position. Just to show you how things are done in Schenectady.

But enough is never enough. They have two vans and two SUVs for the three of them, and they want to retire the two vans because the vans have 80,000 miles on them, as if that were some kind of life-threatening emergency, and replace them with new, big Chevy Tahoes.

My own suggestion to Deputy Chief Brian Kilcullen was to replace them with Vespas, but that went nowhere.

But isn’t it a lovely way to do business when you have cops in Schenectady making $125,000 to $149,000 a year and still looking for added goodies?

Now, I realize all this is relative. Mitt Romney said recently that he makes “not very much” in speaking fees, when he actually made $374,327 in one year. But I guess $374,327 is not very much when your total income for the

year is $20.9 million, as Romney’s was. It’s like me getting a coffee mug from Friends of Albany Public Library for one of my little speeches.

For Schenectady cops who have grown used to doubling their pay with overtime assignments and then retiring in middle-age with pensions equal to their base salaries, it probably is “not very much,” and, what with putting their lives on the line and all, why shouldn’t they get a Chevy Tahoe to take home? Even if they choose to live in Saratoga County, as one of them does.

It’s a matter of perspective.

Another way of looking at it: Romney’s haul of $20.9 million last year figured out to $57,260 a day, while John Ericson’s pay of $149,429 came to a paltry $409 a day.

And Ericson at least worked. Romney just collected dividends and capital gains on his investments, plus of course a piddling few hundred thousand for speaking engagements. His only work since finishing up as governor of Massachusetts five years ago has been running for president.

So what are you going to do, bust on Ericson and the others for wanting a couple of lousy SUVs from the taxpayers?

Of course, there is also the perspective of the beleaguered Schenectady taxpayer himself, making maybe $40,000 a year, but that’s something else.

Categories: Opinion

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