The Chief
January 31, 2003

Bloomberg Tastes P.D. ‘Spirit’

Faces Tough Crowd at Graduation

By Mark Daly

The Jan.22 Police Department graduation ceremony for 2,100 recruits began with a chorus of boos for Mayor Bloomberg, but ended with applause after he praised cops for continuing to reduce crime rates.

The 10,000 relatives and friends of graduates who packed the stands appeared to be reacting to Mr. Bloomberg’s warnings this month that the NYPD might lay off officers to meet his demand for additional budget cuts this year.

Too Close to Home

The graduates, as the department’s newest hires, would have been first in line to lose their jobs if the Mayor had carried out his threat.

Mr. Bloomberg has since vowed to make cuts elsewhere to avoid layoffs, but he refused to rule them out if the largest police union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, fails to agree to changes in officers’ working hours that the city wants in order to boost productivity.

Mr. Bloomberg brushed off the less-than-welcoming reception in his remarks to reporters afterward.

“I think most people cheered. There were a handful who weren’t thrilled.” He said. “The spirit of the NYPD is good. We’re doing all the right things, and I think most people in the Garden understood that.”

Audiences at the traditionally boisterous ceremony have booed past Mayors, including Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was jeered when he appeared after reaching a difficult contract through arbitration with the PBA.

‘Comes With the Job’

Mayors have always gotten a little static,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said in defense of Mr. Bloomberg. “It comes with the territory. He’s made some tough decisions, and we’re going to have to make some more.”

Police officials described the class as one of the most diverse and best-educated ever. Nearly a quarter of the graduates have four-year degrees, which is double the educational requirement. Minorities made up 48 percent of the class, compared to 37 percent of the current force.

Many of the graduates will be assigned to high-crime areas as part of “Operation Impact,” the NYPD’s effort to continue blanket coverage in dangerous neighborhoods despite a continuing drop in its headcount.

Lowest in 7 years

The new class will replace half of the nearly 4,000 officers who have left the department in the past two years. The city budget calls for the force to drop another 600 through attrition to reach 37,210 by July, the lowest headcount since 1996.

The department continues to rack up successes despite the belt-tightening, said Mr. Kelly, who noted that city-wide crime in the previous week was down 11 percent from the same time last year.

“We’re trying to cut the budget without cutting services,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “If there’s any part of government t that has done that over the last 12 ½ months, it’s the NYPD.