The Chief
June 15, 2007

PBA, City Say Crisis Exists In Recruiting Cops

'Serious Problems,' Personnel Chief Tells Council

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch testified last week that the number of radio cars and uniformed patrols across the city, in neighborhoods as different as Bayside and Harlem, has dropped dramatically over the past five years.

The 111th Precinct in Bayside, where the union leader lives, uses two or three patrol cars to service the entire area, which covers 9.4 square miles, Mr. Lynch said at a June 4 City Council hearing. The expansive district also has 116,000 residents, more than 30 schools, and 55 houses of worship, Mr. Lynch noted.

'Could Create a Danger'

"This is the type of staffing shortage that is seen citywide and, if allowed to persist, will create a danger to city residents and to New York City Police Officers," Mr. Lynch asserted.

He called the situation a "crisis" and testified that there have also been steep personnel cuts at the 28th Precinct in Harlem. The precinct's staff has been reduced by more than 25 percent, down to 188 officers from 252 officers in 2000.

The NYPD's Chief of Personnel acknowledged the department was struggling to attract new recruits under the slashed starting salary of $25,100 for their first six months of training. "We have serious problems," Rafael Pineiro told the Council's Public Safety Committee.

The lower starting pay is projected to leave the NYPD 1,600 officers short of its hiring goals for the police class that begins training in July, with just 800 expected to enter the Police Academy. In addition, the class scheduled for January will be smaller unless the salary is increased.

5,000 Fewer Cops

Chief Pineiro testified that in October 2000, the NYPD peaked at slightly more than 41,000 officers, but over the past seven years the department has downsized to approximately 35,900 cops.

The NYPD has lost roughly 3,000 officers annually over the past several years due to retirement and officers transferring to higher-paying jurisdictions, and has not replaced all of them.

Despite the reduction in staff, statistics have shown that the NYPD has continued to reduce crime throughout the city. According to a preliminary report released by the FBI last week, since 2001 overall Index Crime has fallen 22 percent. Those figures showed that New York City was once again the safest large city in the nation, Mayor Bloomberg asserted in a statement.

NYPD 'Spectacular'

He amplified those remarks during a June 5 press conference, telling reporters that the FBI's numbers showed "that crime continues to go down in the city as it goes up elsewhere. That's the measure. I'm pleased to say that the Police Department is doing a spectacular job."

At the Council hearing, the NYPD questioned the PBA's assertion that some precincts only used two patrol cars at a time, stressing that response times have not increased.

"Does that happen on occasion? I can't say it doesn't," Deputy Chief John Gerrish testified. "[But] most day tours have a lot of police officers, whether they are in a patrol car or a special school car or a special youth officer or on foot patrol."

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has also opposed relaxing the 60 college-credit requirement for city-employed peace officers with two years' experience, as some minority advocates and union officials have suggested.

"[The] Police Commissioner is adamant about the educational issue and I believe he's right, because we want to bring these individuals into the academy with the 60 college credits already so they can handle the academy material better and so we can turn out a better police officer right off the bat," Chief Pineiro stated.

Vallone: Keep Standards

Peter F. Vallone Jr., the chair of the safety committee, said that he's "open" to the idea of allowing recruits time to obtain the required credits while they are on the force. Presently, by the date of appointment Police Officer candidates must have completed 60 college credits with at least a 2.0 grade-point-average. A high-school diploma and two years of full-time military service may be substituted for the college requirement.

"I'm not going to take a position on School Safety Agents and Traffic Agents," Mr. Vallone added. "I, like Ray Kelly, believe that we should not lower our standards."

The proposal to relax the college prerequisite - which would require an amendment to the City Charter - has been backed by Gregory Floyd, the head of Teamsters Local 237, and James Huntley, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1182.

Mr. Vallone called the staffing situation an "impending crisis" after hearing testimony from Mr. Lynch and the NYPD officials. He added that the Council was reluctant to "weigh in" on the issue because of the "high emotions" from the union and city negotiators over the stalled contract talks. "But I think that by doing this and risking the ire of both sides that we have made significant progress," he remarked.