The Chief
May 3, 2002

Furor Sidetracks Civilianizing Push

P.D. Cites Security Risk

By Mark Daly

City Council Member Allan Jennings and a representative of the city's clerical union vowed last week to push for greater use of civilian workers in the Police Department and other uniformed agencies, just days after Mr. Jennings' actions at a public hearing caused an uproar over the issue.

Mr. Jennings' effort to publicize the names or 1,600 cops said to be working full-duty desk jobs, in the form of a list distributed at an April 19 City Council hearing, was guaranteed to get attention from the media after police officials walked out of the hearing in protest and an afternoon shower of criticism thundered down.

Unites Mayor and Miller

Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, and Council Speaker A. Gifford Miller all called the decision rash and dangerous. Shortly after making the list available to reporters, abashed Council staffers asked for all copies to be returned.

Undaunted, Mr. Jennings said last week that he will follow up on the matter with a look at the use of civilian workers in the Correction Department and the Sanitation Department. Reserving clerical jobs for Secretaries and Clerical Associates is cost-effective, he said, because civilians in such titles are paid about half what cops, jail officers or Sanitation Workers get.

"From a business point of view, Bloomberg should know we're running a multi-billion dollar corporation in this city," Mr. Jennings said. "I'm interested in seeing this corporation be more productive."

On DC 37's Agenda

Joining in the push for additional hearings was Lenora Gates, the executive vice president for Local 1549 of District Council 37, which represents Police Administrative Aides in the Police Department and some 20,000 clerical workers in all city agencies.

A detailed proposal for greater civilianization of uniformed agencies will be a significant part of the "white paper" on budget-cutting that District Council 37 will release in May, sources at the union said.

Ms Gates said she regretted the "sensationalization" that she felt resulted from the walkout at the hearing and "statements made about the list," which Local 1549 compiled more than a year ago from eyewitness reports submitted by members.

The Police Department raised no objections about the list when it was submitted as evidence at an arbitration hearing on civilianization, Ms. Gates said. "I did not want there to be friction between the civilians and the officers. This seems like such an obvious way to save money."

On April 19, however, police officials said the move put undercover cops and Internal Affairs officers at risk. "To indiscriminately put out officers' names to me is the height of bad judgment," Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said.

Mr. Bloomberg's Director of Communications, Bill Cunningham, called Council Speaker Miller to express the Mayor's "grave concerns" about the matter.

Mr. Miller, through a spokesman, said the list was handed out without his knowledge or consent. "It was an inappropriate decision to release the list in that format and certainly there was no desire to compromise police security," the spokesman said.

Mr. Jennings was unrepentant. "Kelly, I feel, overreacted, " he said. "You, as a citizen, can walk into any precinct and see officers walking around in uniform, with their shields on, on clerical tasks."

The list included the names of officers assigned to the Staten Island Narcotics Bureau Gang Unit, he admitted, but in that instance the shield numbers were omitted.

"There were 15 officers assigned to that unit. There were 23 Officers, Sergeants and Detectives in Internal Affairs doing records, personnel, CCRB issues," he said. Mr. Jennings contended that all such jobs could easily be performed by civilians. "There's a culture in the Police Department of poor management that would like to distract from the issue because they don't want a real civilianization plan," he said.

All-Civilian Plan

Mr. Jennings's own plan is to remove all 3,673 uniformed officers from the NYPD's 28 non-law-enforcement divisions, which are concentrated at 1 Police Plaza and several satellite offices.

The property rooms, payroll and pension units, and motor transport offices, in particular, could be run entirely by civilians, he said.

Mr. Kelly has said the issue is more complicated than that, since in some cases a single Police Officer assigned to multiple tasks might have to be replaced by two or more civilian workers. In general, though, the Commissioner said last week, "If you're an able-bodied person, you should be performing enforcement duties."

The list of names released by Mr. Jennings, he added, was out-of-date and included officers on restricted duty for medical reasons.

Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said that cops should work some assignments, such as clerical posts in narcotics squads, because the line between detective work and back-office duties can become blurred. "Every conversation they have with a civilian can be part of an investigation, so you have to tread carefully," he said.

Political Plums

Council Member James E. Davis, a former Police Officer, said there was another reason motivating the department.

"It's the hook," he said, using cop slang for the relationships that can lead to desirable assignments. "Police Plaza is filled up with a lot of people who have connections or relations in the department.

Mr. Davis spent part of his 10 years on the force as a Police Academy instructor, which he said included stints on the warrant squad whenever classes were not in session. He said instructor spots should be reserved for uniformed personnel, because they can teach from their work experience. But he objected to cops working as "paper-pushers" in the forensic lab, the medical division, or in the pension section helping other cops with their retirement papers.

Union's Hopes Rise

DC 37 has waged an uphill battle to add civilian workers in the Police Department in the last decade, as city funds funneled through the "Safe Streets, Safe Cities" program expanded the uniformed force to 40,000 officers.

Because the program did not provide funds to grow the civilian work force, police officials found it cost-effective to plug cops into clerical vacancies, said Ms. Gates.

Now, however, economics appear to be working in the union's favor. Faced with budget cuts and an increase in police officer retirements, Commissioner Kelly has proposed turning 800 jobs over to civilians in the next fiscal year.