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NYC mayoral endorsements a dilemma for police unions

An NYPD patrol car is shown in this

An NYPD patrol car is shown in this file photo taken on March 18, 2012. Credit: Getty Images

New York City police unions contemplating mayoral endorsements are facing a dilemma: support a Republican they agree with on policing or a Democrat who is sympathetic to organized labor.

"I really have a quandary here," said Louis Turco, president of the Lieutenants Benevolent Association, which, like nearly every other municipal union, hasn't gotten a pay raise in years and is working with an expired contract.

Or, as the Captains Endowment Association's Roy Richter put it: "I got the guy that's pro-labor and anti-police, and on the other hand, I got the guy who's pro-police and anti-labor."

Further complicating matters for Republican Joe Lhota was a gaffe he made in May, in which he likened Port Authority police officers to "mall cops." Police unions from across the region condemned him, and he quickly apologized.

Lhota won the GOP nomination on Tuesday. Although the Democrats' tally is incomplete, the current count puts Bill de Blasio over the 40 percent mark needed to avoid a runoff.

Al O'Leary, spokesman for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the NYPD's rank-and-file officer union, said it hasn't made any decisions and declined to comment further.

De Blasio spokesman Dan Levitan said his boss would welcome the unions' endorsements but declined to comment further. The Lhota campaign didn't return a message.

Two matters important to the police unions are hot-button issues:

The NYPD's stop-and-frisk tactic, which foes criticize as unconstitutional racial profiling, but proponents call a vital tool.

Whether the city can afford to award back pay to municipal workers.

De Blasio has slammed stop-and-frisk -- which the unions support. But de Blasio also says the back-pay demand is a valid concern.

Lhota has ruled out back pay, but has long been a defender of stop-and-frisk.

Lhota also joins the unions in opposing two laws recently passed by the City Council, one that bans racial profiling and allows citizens to sue police officers, and another that installs an inspector general over the department. De Blasio supported both laws.

"If that's the choice that we face," Richter said, "we've got some difficult decisions to make."

In the spring, a coalition of law enforcement unions endorsed de Blasio opponent Bill Thompson in the primary. One was the Sergeants Benevolent Association, whose president, Ed Mullins, said he was disappointed in Thompson's performance.

"I didn't see him as a serious campaigner out there," Mullins said. "It's pretty clear that Bill de Blasio really wanted it."


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