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Fighting NYPD union president resigns after 6 terms

Patrick J. Lynch, the head of the New York police union – the largest in the country – announced on Tuesday that he would leave his post at the end of his term.

Mr Lynch, 59, served under four mayors and seven police commissioners for nearly a quarter of a century as the irascible president of the Police Benevolent Association, which represents nearly 50,000 active and retired police officers.

After serving six terms from 1999, Mr Lynch said on Tuesday he would not seek re-election when his current term expires in June. The announcement came just days after the union negotiated a tentative eight-year contract with the city that includes a 28% wage increase.

Mr Lynch said he was leaving as ‘our union is in the strongest position we have seen in years’.

Dressed in a suit or his service blue windbreaker, with his hair slicked back and thick Queens accent, Mr. Lynch was a fixture at police funerals and press conferences for officers killed or wounded. He was known to some as a blue bulldog, a nod to his reputation as a shrill fighter for his limbs. The position often made him a thorn in the side of city mayors when he perceived a lack of support for officers in terms of money or morale.

A shrewd politician given to strategic outbursts of outrage, Mr Lynch could be seen finger-picking to make his case in front of news cameras, and his tactics were sometimes seen as crude and abrasive.

“He infuriated some politicians because he stuck to his cops,” said John Driscoll, who teaches law and policing at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “He was a brilliant speaker and an outspoken leader for his cops. No matter what, he was up front, defending his members. Some might say he was abrasive, but who else was going to speak for them?

The end of Mr Lynch’s term has been accelerated by two conflicting timetables: If he were to run again and win, he would have to step down before serving a full term due to the mandatory retirement age of 63. This in turn could leave the union leadership in question during the next contract negotiations.

“A rider cannot change horses in the middle of a battle, and the PBA must not change leadership in the middle of a contract fight,” Lynch said in a letter to members. “To stay true to my principles, I must allow change to begin now.”

Voting for Mr. Lynch’s successor begins next month.

Mr Lynch, who grew up in Queens and still lives in the Bayside area of ​​the borough, was the youngest of seven children from an Irish Catholic family. His father was a subway conductor in the city’s subways, and Mr. Lynch was briefly a conductor before joining the police department in 1984.

His sons, Patrick and Kevin, are both New York police officers.

Mr Lynch was first elected at age 35 as a reformist candidate with impeccable credentials. He was a photogenic Irish American with several relatives who had served in the department.

New York City officers had endured several years without a pay raise, a situation they called “zeroes for heroes.”

Mr. Lynch solidified his popularity by overseeing regular pay rises and further raising the profile of the PBA, one of the loudest and most visible police unions in the country.

He became known for his antagonistic personality, which some critics called distracting and detrimental to grassroots interests. From his early days, Mr. Lynch was known for instigating fights with city leaders, including Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

In 2004, he called for the resignation of Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly after Mr. Kelly questioned the murder of a black teenager by a white officer on the roof of a Brooklyn housing project.

That same year, when the union and the city were embroiled in a contract dispute, Mr. Lynch led a noisy protest after midnight outside Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s townhouse on the Upper East Side.

The worst of Mr Lynch’s anger was reserved for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who criticized police tactics during his mayoral bid.

Mr Lynch called on police officers to sign petitions barring the mayor from attending their funerals if they were killed on the job.

He criticized Mr. de Blasio, saying he did not support the officers, and in 2014, when two people were shot and killed in Brooklyn during Mr. de Blasio’s first year in office, Mr. Lynch said protested his visit to the hospital by inciting other officers to turn their backs. on the mayor in a hallway. He told news crews that Mr de Blasio had “blood on his hands”.

To defend his rhetoric, Mr Lynch said he was simply watching over his members.

“I have no opinion,” he once said. “My members have opinions.”

In 2015, Mr Lynch won more than 70% of the vote to beat two challengers and win a fifth term.

He recently told delegates he would back union treasurer Pat Hendry to succeed him, rather than Corey Grable, a union financial secretary who has announced his candidacy to become the union’s first black president. In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Grable said he was disappointed that Mr Lynch “tried to put his finger on the race ladder to replace him on the way out”.

“The men and women of the NYPD are desperate for new leadership,” Mr. Grable said, “and we need to make sure they won’t be subjected to the same thing.”


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