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City shakes down Atlanta cops 

Veteran cops denied promised bonuses

Just before he and four other members of the Atlanta City Council voted Monday to uphold a mayoral veto that kept $2,000 bonuses out of the pockets of veteran city cops, Councilman Derrick Boazman was stopped by an officer outside of chambers.

The cop reminded Boazman of the 2000 budget, which allowed for bonuses for officers with at least five years of service -- a holiday gift that was supposed to come from money the city saves by not hiring enough men and women in blue. To the officer, that provision constituted a promise.

"You're gonna be fine," Boazman reassured him. He then reminded the officer of three straight years of pay increases.

"Do you want a $2,000 bonus now or a $2,000 raise next year?" Boazman asked, as he retreated to the council chamber.

"But you promised," the cop called after him.

Had the mayor's veto been overridden, the city would have had to find the money somewhere in the budget before the end of the fiscal year. The city has already spent the money that had been earmarked for the bonuses, because the language in the budget that was supposed to guarantee the bonuses wasn't explicit enough.

Mayor Bill Campbell had opposed the bonuses during the budget process, and in a letter explaining the veto, he said the bonuses could cut into the city's $16.5 million reserves, which could affect the city's double-A bond rating.

City officers were furious after the vote, many suggesting that it was a false choice between fiscal responsibility and police bonuses, a ploy to justify reneging on the city's promise.

Cops, many of whom heckled the City Council, stopped well short of threatening a strike. Instead, they promised action at the voting booth.

"We're going to support our friends and give as much money as we can for their campaigns," said Chip Warren, the national vice president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers.

What further effect the vote will have on the morale of an agency that feels it's been neglected since it supported Campbell's challenger in the last election is an unknown.

As angry officers poured out of the City Council chambers, two men walked by and joked that it would be a good time to rob a bank.

Said one cop: "Go ahead."

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