The Chief
March 8, 2002

NYPD Looks to Ivy League for Recruits

By William Van Auken

The NYPD will be looking for a few good men - and women - from Harvard, Yale and Columbia as part of a new recruitment drive unveiled by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly last week.

The campaign will focus on winning Ivy League graduates and other high-caliber rookies to the force by emphasizing the opportunity for public service and adventure, rather than selling the Police Officer job based on salary and benefits.

'Rich in Experience'

"You're not going to make a lot of money, but you're going to be rich in experience," said Mr. Kelly.

"We've been selling this job short for years, and we want to get back on track," said Mr. Kelly. "We want to get the best possible people into this organization. The people of New York City deserve it, and what you do here and what you experience merits it."

The changed orientation, however, will close off a career path established by former Police Commissioner Bernard B. Kerik for two sections of the Police Department's lowest-paid employees that was opened up with the aim of getting an increased number of minority applicants.

Mr. Kelly said the department will no longer hold promotional exams for School Safety Agents and Traffic Enforcement Agents. Under a policy introduced by Mr. Kerik in September 2000, these employees were allowed to substitute two years' experience in their NYPD jobs for the 60 college credits required of other candidates, much as war veterans could substitute two years of military service.

That Semper Fi Pride

The Police Commissioner said the department will still accept military service as qualifying.

Mr. Kelly, who retired from the Marine Corps Reserves after 30 years of service, said the department would take a few pages from the Marine recruitment book. He noted that while other services had "to struggle" to meet their headcount quotas, the Marine Corps had succeeded seven years in a row, promoting "pride and experience" rather than "the GI bill and college reimbursement."

The Police Commissioner said he had spoken with Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James L. Jones as well as the General in charge of recruiting for the corps and both had offered advice and support.

The proposed changes in the department's recruitment strategy drew criticism from both the union representing Traffic Enforcement Agents and the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

"I hold Commissioner Kelly in the highest regard, but in this decision he missed the boat," said Robert Cassar, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1183, which represents some 1,800 TEA's. "I don't think you learn how to be a law-enforcement person at Harvard. Historically, this has been a working-class job, and you should be able to relate to the people who live in the communities you patrol."

A Lost Incentive

Mr. Cassar said his members gained invaluable field experience while working under NYPD supervision, and that a number of younger people had taken the TEA job over the past year with the idea of using it as a stepping stone to becoming a cop.

"We think it's a great idea; we need the best qualified people to take this job," said Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch. "But whether you're recruiting in the parking lot of Harvard or the parking lot of CUNY, you have to be able to offer a decent, livable salary."

The PBA, which is going into binding arbitration with a state Public Employment Relations Board panel this month, has long argued that the starting salary of $31,305 is too low to attract sufficient numbers of qualified applicants.

"How are they going to pay off their bills from Harvard on $350 a week?" Mr. Lynch asked. "They have to address the salary issue to address both the problems of recruiting and retention."

Mr. Kelly attributed the ballooning NYPD retirement figures to the natural attrition resulting from the retirement of officers hired into the "super classes" of the early 1980's following the end of a six-year hiring freeze. He insisted the department would have no problem maintaining its new reduced headcount of 39,100 based on the 13,332 applicants who took the two hiring exams held last December and in February.

"I'd like to see an increase in salaries too, but I think there are other reasons people join an organization besides money," said the Commissioner. "It's also a matter of what people want to do with the rest of their lives."

While focusing the new recruitment drive on four-year colleges, Mr. Kelly said the department would continue reaching out to minority communities and would seek the assistance of black and Latino fraternal groups in reaching potential minority applicants.

Supplement Budget

The department currently has a recruitment budget of approximately $1 million and a staff of around 50. The Commissioner said that he would attempt to augment both using public and private funds.

To drum up interest in becoming a cop, Mr. Kelly said the department is preparing a promotional "trailer" to be shown in movie theaters as well as a media advertising campaign. He also said the department would seek to make the NYPD recruitment Web site more "user-friendly" by allowing people to apply for the job on-line.

The Police Commissioner was encouraged by the turnout of nearly 1,000 candidates at a  "walk-in" exam held by the NYPD at the State University of New York in Albany last month. To produce similar results in the Ivy League, he said, the NYPD will send out some of its senior officers, including the department's intellectuals, the graduates of the Police Management Institute, to talk to students at top-flight schools.

The department recently surveyed its last recruit class, Mr. Kelly said, with the aim of addressing "customer service issues" at the Applicant Processing Division, which screens those candidates who pass the hiring exam.

The Commissioner has tapped Assistant Chief Ralph Pineiro to head the recruitment effort. He has also named an advisory committee that includes Alice McGillion, a former NYPD First Deputy Commissioner who is now in public relations; Ellen Levine, an editor of Good Housekeeping; Paul J. Block, an investment banker and former Revlon International chairman; and Hank Sieden, an advertising executive and Police Foundation official.