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by Peter Moskos

October 9, 2007

Struggling NYPD mother caught in welfare bust

When I tell you that a New York City police officer was caught milking the welfare system, your first thought should be, “what’s a police officer doing on welfare?!” Good question, thanks for asking. The starting salary of the NYPD is $25,100 a year. Granted it goes up a lot after 6 months, but still. How can you live off this for 6 months when you’re not allowed to hold secondary jobs and can’t make overtime? I was making $28,400 when I was hired as a police officer… 8 years ago... in Baltimore. I could get by, but I had no family, no car payments, and $300/month rent.

You can’t live in New York City on that money. This headline was inevitable. Sad, too. How did it get this way? Well, a few years back, in contract negotiations, police got a well deserved raise. But it came at the expense of new recruits. Peter was robbed to pay Paul. At the time, I thought, “fine.” In a few months this absurd situation will be rectified and all New York City police will get the raise they deserve. Now it’s a few years later.

A recruit, perhaps a very good future police office, was caught for abusing the food stamp system. It wasn’t even aggressive abuse. It was passive abuse. Somehow I think that’s better. She didn’t lie to the system. She just “forgot” to mention to welfare people that she was now employed. Had she mentioned it, she would have lost $1,000. A thousand dollars that she used, I suppose, to feed her hungry kids. How many of you would have done differently?

Except for the welfare abuse part, she did all the right things. Working her up. Trying to get off welfare. Becoming a police officer after going through the cadet program. Now I suppose she’s unemployed and costing us more money.

New York will pay for this in the long run. Mark my words. You get what you pay for. We will have worse cops, dirtier cops, and bigger lawsuits to pay in coming years. Lawsuits that will probably overshadow any savings from paying police a low starting salary. If crime goes up, we’re all doomed as a city. But if we refuse to pay police officers a living wage, we get what we deserve.

Struggling NYPD mother caught in welfare bust
By Alison Gendar, Kerry Burke and Michael White
New York Daily News staff writers

Friday, September 21st 2007, 4:00 AM

A 25-year-old NYPD recruit was so strapped by her $25,100 Police Academy salary that she committed welfare fraud, authorities said.

Claribel Polanco, a mother of two who was collared yesterday at her Bronx home, was suspended from duty and most likely will be fired, police sources said.

"She's all the problems in a nutshell - a trifecta," one police source said. "The department pays dirt, so all they can hire are kids on welfare. ... So she committed a crime to get by. And now the department has a criminal on the books - and she's not even out of the Police Academy yet."

When asked about the charges, Polanco said only, "This is ridiculous. Why are they doing this?"

Polanco, of Morris Ave. in Morrisania, was an NYPD cadet - a program for students - and was attending college when she signed up for welfare, a police source said.

She had been receiving food stamps and Medicaid.

But she failed to notify the authorities when she was hired by the NYPD in January and continued to receive more than $1,000 in benefits illegally, court records show.

Polanco was arraigned in Bronx Criminal Court yesterday on felony grand larceny and welfare fraud as well as misdemeanor larceny and welfare fraud counts and was released without bail.

NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau investigators had prevented her from graduating with her academy class in June after catching wind of the alleged fraud, police sources said.

Police union officials declined to comment on the arrest.

Police officials have expressed concerns that dropout rates in the current class also have risen because of the low $25,100 starting salary.

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