Capital News 12:57 a.m. | Jun. 23, 2015


De Blasio adds 1,300 officers in budget agreement

 

AP Photo/Seth Wenig
NYPD officers in Harlem

By Sally Goldenberg, Gloria Pazmino and Azi Paybarah

agreement for fiscal year 2016, he announced alongside members of the City Council in a late-night press conference on Monday evening.

The announcement was made as de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito concluded the traditional handshake on next year's $78.5 million budget, which takes effect July 1 after a Council vote.

“What is clear is we share values, we share strong values and that animates this budget,” de Blasio said during the press conference in the rotunda of City Hall.

“It doesn’t mean everything went easily," he added. "Sometimes there were some tough conversations, but we got through them because we had a common resolve to help our communities."

The addition of 1,300 officers marked a surprising reversal for the mayor, exceeding the 1,000 requested by the Council and police commissioner Bill Bratton, which de Blasio had previously suggested were unnecessary.

The additional officers will bring the size of the department to nearly 35,800 by July 1, 2016 and will cost an extra $170 million—an expense that will be offset by a required $70 million in savings by reducing police overtime. (The savings will fully take effect a year after the new officers are hired.)

The increase in headcount includes 300 more officers in the counterterrorism unit, and a new “neighborhood policing” initiative that the mayor said is central to his ongoing reforms to the department. Another 400 new administrative workers will fill desk jobs currently performed by uniformed officers who will be sent back to street patrol.

The new officers mark a significant win for Mark-Viverito, who pushed hard for a larger department during closed-door budget negotiations in recent weeks, according to sources.

The increase marks a significant concession from de Blasio, who had insisted he was “comfortable” with the size of the department.

Asked repeatedly why he changed his stance, de Blasio said Mark-Viverito made a strong case and spoke favorably about the “neighborhood policing” program, which de Blasio said will allow officers to better know their precincts and improve police and community relations.

“Officers who will walk a beat, get to know a community, get to know community leaders and clergy, have a real familiarity with the needs of the community and build trust,” de Blasio said. “It is much more of a geographical focus, moving away from some of the mistakes of the past from officers moving from location to location and never got to build those relationships.”

The speaker’s request had the support of the City Council, even as police reform activists railed against the proposal.

Mark-Viverito, a left-leaning Democrat who was a fierce critic of police prior to becoming speaker, argued the increase in headcount was necessary to keep New Yorkers safe and often said an increase in headcount and improved community relations were not “mutually exclusive.”

“By expanding community policing and bringing the police and communities they serve closer together, we can continue to bridge the divide while also making the city safer,” Mark-Viverito said on Monday.

The news of a larger force drew measured praise from police union leaders.

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch called it “a drop in the bucket since we have lost nearly 7,000 since 2001.” 

Captains Endowment Association president Roy Richter called it “terrific,” and said it will boost morale in the department.

“I wasn’t really expecting 1,300,” Richter told Capital. “I was expecting between 500 and 700.”

The group Communities United for Police Reform criticized the news.

“This deal to increase the NYPD headcount seems like politics at its worst, and is not in the best interest of the safety or long-term needs of our communities,” the group's spokesperson, Monifa Bandele, wrote in an email. “It's disappointing and perplexing that the city budget will increase the NYPD headcount when systemic problems with police accountability and culture that allow New Yorkers to be abused and killed have yet to be fixed, and while major needs in our communities are under-resourced.”

The Council also won an extra $39 million for public libraries that will allow for six-day service throughout the city, which was a priority for the body.

De Blasio also agreed to fund $17.9 million for breakfast in 530 elementary schools by fiscal year 2018, another Council request. He also agreed to an extra $25 million for senior services.

The Council also received $280 million to fund its initiatives.

The only major point of disagreement came with the funding of a city-wide bail fund, a proposal from Mark-Viverito to help low-level, non-violent offenders pay for bail.

The mayor’s final budget did not include any funding for proposal, but the Council will provide $1.4 million to establish the bail fund, which will provide bail up to $2,000 for certain offenders.