The Chief
June 25, 2004

Long Arm of NYPD Not Reaching Many

Few Outside Recruits

By Reuven Blau

Police Department personnel officials last week maintained that testing out-of-state candidates at colleges and military bases is an effective way of recruiting officers despite slim results so far.

Police recruitment directors claimed that the initiative, which was started two years ago, is still in its beginning stages and that they expect to garner more hires over the next couple of years to cope with the force’s burgeoning attrition rate.

Hope It Picks Up

“We have only been doing it for a few years; it is a little too early to predict,” contended George W. Anderson, an NYPD Deputy Chief of Personnel. “We are hopeful we will see increased results as time moves forward.”

In all, 225 eligibles have been appointed from 19 tests administered at several out-of-state universities and military bases. There is a total of 4,059 eligibles remaining on those 12 lists. Over the past two years, the department has had to fill roughly 6,000 vacancies left by officers who retired, transferred to different departments, or left law enforcement.

The union representing Police Officers blasted the recruitment policy and charged that the department was “deceiving” out-of-state candidates unfamiliar with the city’s high cost of living. The union also contended that part of the department’s $30 million recruitment budget from the past three years should have been used instead to increase officer’s salaries to help stem the retention problem.

‘Pay Doesn’t Buy Much’

“They are deceiving the candidates that are signing up for this exam, not explaining to them that this money will not put food on the table” argued Patrick J. Lynch, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president. “What they will do is look at that salary based on the cost of living in those other states, but as we know in New York City…the money doesn’t stretch that far.”

NYPD officials argued, though, that its overall recruitment drive has been productive. The department has continued to get several thousand applicants for the three tests it has begun holding in the city each year. There were 29,400 applicants and 12,485 test-takers for the February exam. In addition, roughly 30,000 applied for the June exam, which has yet to be completed.

Aimed High to Start

The NYPD started searching for candidates outside New York under Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, who in May 2002 sent recruiters to Harvard University, where he took management courses while climbing the departmental ladder nearly two decades ago.

Department recruiters have since visited military bases including Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and Fort Benning in Georgia, as well as several East Coast colleges, in an attempt to garner more applicants. “It’s an initiative that we continue to fine-tune,” Mr. Anderson said. “We try to identify places that will be most productive.”

“It is a good transition from the military,” added Deputy Inspector Martin Morales, the commanding officer of recruitment. “They have the good training, experience, and management skills we look for.”

Too Early to Assess

NYPD personnel officials contended that it was too early to judge the success of the initiative because many of the eligibles must first complete their military duties. “The longer the lists are established, the more productive they will be,” Mr. Anderson argued.

According to civil service law, an individual whose list number is reached on a roster while he or she is on military duty may, upon return, be placed on a special military list for a maximum of two years.

“Most of the people that take the test are from the East Coast,” Mr. Morales said. “New York is well-represented in the military and we want the military to be well-represented in the NYPD.”

He continued, “We are the largest police department. We make it easy for them; we bring the test to them.”

Chicago, L.A. Differ

But the testing comes at a time when the nation’s next two largest police departments have moved away from such recruiting practices. Police personnel officials from both Chicago and Los Angeles said that they have scaled back out-of-state recruiting and have completely stopped satellite testing because it was not cost effective.

“The stats showed that not many people are willing to relocate,” said Alicia Ski, a Los Angeles Police Department recruitment officer. Applicants living in the area, Ms. Ski pointed out, can take the exam at practically any time via a computer console located at several department recruitment centers in the city.

Department of Citywide Administrative Services spokesman Warner Johnston retorted that the comparison was unfair. “We’re the largest city in the world and we are unique,” he argues. “You can’t compare out city to any other city.”

The LAPD and Chicago Police Department employ 9,200 and 13,500 officers, respectively. In contrast, as of May 1 the NYPD had 35,689 officers.

Move to Computerize

Mr. Johnston noted that DCAS is currently working on establishing a similar computerized testing system to reduce costs and make the process more efficient. In the meantime, he pointed out that DCAS has been able to reduce costs associated with administering city police tests from $17.27 per-test-taker for the November 2002 exam to $8.38 for the February evaluation.

“We hope computerized testing will maximize test administration while minimizing costs even more,” Mr. Johnston said. “We have great expectations for computerized testing. There are so many efficiencies we will be able to obtain.”

As for the satellite exams, DCAS typically sends two to three employees to help several NYPD recruiters administer the test. The police recruiters arrive at the location up to a week before to publicize the exam and the advantages of the job, Mr. Morales said.

DCAS and NYPD officials declined to estimate the costs of such trips, and claimed that the expenses are included in each department’s general overall budget.

Expensive Road Trips

But critics of the policy estimated that they could cost the city upwards of $2,000 per test for food, car, hotel and wage expenses. It costs the Chicago police force roughly $1,000 to send two recruiters away for two nights and one day, said Chicago Sgt. Kristin Barker.

“We are pleased with the results,” Deputy Chief Anderson maintained.