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Some clerks paid better than cops

One of my thoughts, as the report technician was holding up the crime report she wouldn't let me see the other day, was that I really can't expect some low-paid clerk to know the Freedom of Information Law.

Then I went to the office and looked up her salary. Linda Craig made $60,967 last year. For taking dictation from police officers and crime witnesses, fielding questions from the public, answering the telephone, photocopying documents and so on.

"The Report Technician is assigned clerical tasks within the Buffalo Police Department  so that uniform personnel my be released for the performance of work of an enforcement nature," according to the civil service job description.

Eligible applicants must have a high school diploma, or GED, and one year's experience as a clerk.

I got to nosing around payroll records of public employees we keep here at The News. There are a lot of report technicians employed by the police department. Each of the five districts has them, as do most of the detective divisions, such as homicide and sex offenses. Then there's a slew who work in central booking in HQ downtown. I decided to focus on them.

The base salary is modest -- $30,213. Not that anyone makes just their base.

No, far from it.

The 19 RTs in question last year earned anywhere from $2,147 to $64,940 in additional pay, most, if not all of it, in overtime. On average, the RTs earned an average of $50,520.

By contrast, the starting salary of a street cop is $47,288.

The earnings of two report technicians stand out. Suzanne Cairns made $95,153; and Faye Kwiatkowski, $91,554.

Not that 2007 was a record year for Suzanne. Her earnings were actually down from 2005, when she made $95,691.

Seniority scheduling is a wonderful thing. At least if you have seniority.

As for knowing the FOI Law, I suppose I can't expect the RTs to know it when their superiors don't.

It's not not in the police department, not just City Hall, but throughout local government.

I use the FOI Law a lot to obtain documents and I continue to be troubled by how few people in government who ought to know the law don't. Many gatekeepers of public records operate on the assumption that the information is private, as though it belongs to them, not the public that pays their salaries.




Buffalo police, crime
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