Usually those with around three decades of experience aren’t considered fresh blood. But long-time New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer Corey Grable hopes to shake things up by running for the president of the Police Benevolent Association (PBA), the country’s largest police union. It represents a majority of the NYPD officers. Grable is currently the PBA’s only Black board member, according to a union spokesperson.
Earlier this month, Grable sat down with the Amsterdam News over a cup of “the best hot chocolate he’s ever tasted” to chat about his story and candidacy.
He’s born and reared in Brooklyn. And proud of it. Grable once pursued a law career, but fell into law enforcement, joining the transit police in 1992 after graduating from St. John’s University. He joined the NYPD—and subsequently the PBA—after the departments merged in 1995. Grable was elected as the Transit Bureau’s PBA financial secretary in 2011. If his custom-made pens are any indication, Grable is all in on winning.
“I’m definitely running the campaign on change,” he said. “This election I believe is going to have a New York City impact. Because of just the history and sometimes unfortunately the lack of trust the public have with police and specifically with the unions these elections probably have a little bit more of an intention to it.”
But what does change look like to Grable? For one, a new contract—the PBA is closing in on six years of working on an expired contract, which he squarely blames on current PBA President Pat Lynch. He recalls several instances of officers leaving the force to work in the service industry due to wages. Additionally, he wants more mental health and wellness services available for members and to establish a childcare voucher system.
Then there’s the matter of police reform. Grable wants to reestablish relationships with community leaders and legislators, some who seek sweeping changes with how the NYPD operates. Simultaneously, he’s pushing back against the police disciplinary system, which he thinks is unfair. Still, Grable says such conversations are only possible with a change of leadership.
The field is yet to be set for the May election, according to a PBA spokesperson. But Grable is almost guaranteed to run against the incumbent Lynch, who has been entrenched as union president since 1999. Back then, he was the youngest to hold the office. Lynch is now running in his sixth term. He ran unopposed in 2019, the most recent election. In 2015, he won with over 70% of the vote.
“Our entire focus right now is on securing a contract for our members,” said Lynch over a brief email statement. “Politics comes later.”
Speaking of politics, Lynch was lambasted by Black police officers for endorsing then-President Donald Trump during his 2020 reelection campaign. The NYPD wing of the Guardian’s Association—the city’s Black law enforcement fraternal order—penned a letter critiquing the move to involve the union in partisanship, especially without conferring with its members. Grable called the move a “slippery slope.”
“Obviously there’s some engagement that you have to do,” he said. “The extent of how great you go beyond the five boroughs and the state, that’s always the million dollar question. Whenever you start to talk about that engagement policy, how does it benefit the cop?”
Throughout the interview, Grable wasn’t shy about much. While respectful, he likened Lynch to the recently-retired Tom Brady, feeling as if the metaphorical game has passed the long-time PBA president by. No clue on how well Lynch throws a football, though. And Grable didn’t flinch when talking about his past CCRB misconduct complaints, which he claims he largely doesn’t remember due to the twenty or so year gap since they were investigated. But he was more reticent when asked about race, despite the historical significance of potentially becoming the first Black PBA president.
“When you look at my resume about pedigree, I am probably one of the most qualified candidates to ever run for [PBA] president,” said Grable. “Obviously my black skin lets everybody know who I am, but I think that it’s the quality of the person in the position that could resolve any of these issues. [It] doesn’t necessarily mean race will have an effect or bearing on anything. It’s about being fair. It’s about being open-minded.”
Another Black officer, Ronald Wilson, was one of two candidates who ran against Lynch in his 2015 landslide victory.
The Guardians Association’s Charles Billups says Grable—who the organization will likely back come election time—walks a tightrope balancing the changing demographics of the police force.
“You got to give Pat Lynch whatever credit [you] can to the point where he is representing his members,” he said. “Can his tactics and his methods of doing things be different? Yes, it can be. But that’s just not him, personality wise. But he does defend his union…Pat Lynch and that crew of his on the board, they came from an era where it was years ago. The sad thing about it, what he should have done is to allow that union to [evolve to] where it should be today.
“If he allowed it to evolve in the right direction, it would be open minded to the reflection on what the city is today.”
Billups strongly believes that local Black and brown communities will play a major role in the upcoming election, citing the influx of officers who come from them. He says they’re often dual stakeholders for both the police and the policed.
“The community does play a role in that election,” said Billups. “A lot of those cops [in] their union, they [have] family members that live in the city and their family members also influence their decisions on how they are going to vote.”
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.