A Greenwood Heights cop is trying to oust longtime police union head Pat Lynch as Lynch battles City Hall.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association election challenge is the first the outspoken union executive has faced in more than a decade. It is being mounted by Brian Fusco, a 27-year veteran of the 72nd Precinct, which serves Greenwood Heights, Sunset Park, and Windsor Terrace, with the help of scandal-tarred Bronx cops accused of fixing tickets. At a press conference on Tuesday in front of the precinct’s station house, Fusco said Lynch is all style and no substance when it comes to representing the NYPD’s 24,000 rank-and-file officers.
“When Pat gets in front of a mic he’s very well-spoken, he gets very angry, he gets red in the face, everything sounds great, and he rallies the troops behind him,” said Fusco, who has been a union trustee for eight years. “Unfortunately when Pat steps away from the microphone, that’s where it ends. He never has a plan, never has a follow-through for everything he says.”
Fusco and his allies, also including East New York officer and union operative John Giangrasso, are calling themselves the Strengthen the Shield slate, and their main gripe is the four and a half years beat cops have gone without a contract.
“Pat Lynch and his team have failed to get us a contract in almost half a decade,” Fusco said. “There is no reason policemen who put themselves in harm’s way every day should be walking around for almost five years without a contract. It is completely unacceptable.”
Lynch has been president of the union since 1999, and Fusco’s insurgent campaign is the first election challenge since 2003, when Lynch defeated an opponent by 70 percent. Contract negotiations recently went to arbitration.
Lynch has made international headlines during the past month by blaming Mayor DeBlasio for the murder of two police officers in Bedford-Stuyvesant, saying he and anti-police-brutality protesters had blood on their hands. During his mayoral campaign, DeBlasio pledged to rein in the use of the controversial stop, question, and frisk tactic; as mayor he aligned himself with Rev. Al Sharpton; and following a grand jury’s December decision not to indict the cop who killed Gowanus native Eric Garner, he did not comment directly on the case, but related telling his teenage son, who is mixed-race, to be careful around the police. DeBlasio also hired Bill Bratton, pioneer of CompStat and so-called “broken windows policing,” to the post of police commissioner, and effusively praised the department through much of his first year in office.
Before DeBlasio, Lynch demanded that taxpayer funding be pulled from Fort Greene’s Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts over art he said “promotes hate” against police officers. And in 2004, when then-commissioner Ray Kelly said there appeared to be “no justification” for the police shooting of Bedford-Stuyvesant teen Timothy Stansbury, Jr, Lynch demanded that Kelly resign.
Lynch denied a role in a recent citywide work slowdown within the NYPD, and rejected assertions by City Hall and media commentators that his attacks on DeBlasio are mostly meant to leverage a better contract.
Fusco was light on details about how he would do the job differently, and his slate comes with its own baggage, in the form of criminal indictments against his vice presidential candidates, Michael Hernandez and Joseph Anthony. The two are accused in connection with the 2011 ticket-fixing scandal that swept up 16 officers. Fusco said the ongoing prosecutions are another example of Lynch’s lacking leadership, and expressed hope that the charges will go away by the time the union ballots go out in May.
“Pat Lynch stood in front of the Bronx Supreme Court and put on a great show as usual, but three years later nothing has been done” he said. “We’re very optimistic that these officers are wrongfully accused. It will be taken care of by then and it won’t even be an issue.”
In a statement, Lynch said that he wants the same things Fusco does, including boosting the ranks of the department, funding bulletproof vests, and improving disability benefits, but that Fusco and his allies have been a drag on the union and are running a dirty campaign.
“We welcome an open discussion with anyone aspiring to the board of this great union, but we will not tolerate the lies, misinformation and political theater that has been the trademark of their candidacy to date,” Lynch said.
During the press conference, about a dozen cops came tearing out of the nearby station house, hopped into cars, and peeled away with sirens blaring, as if to highlight the work of the beat cops Fusco hopes to represent.
“As you can see this is a dangerous job, and that’s the exact reason we’re here,” he said, a police helicopter whirring overhead.