The Chief
June 27, 2008

PBA, Council Demand More Cop Hiring

Press for Budget Restoration

By MIA GOLDBERG

A dozen members of the City Council joined Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch June 19 in demanding the restoration of $16 million in funding to next year's budget to hire 1,000 new Police Officers.

'AS COPS GO, SO GOES THE CITY': Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch said it was essential to restore 1,000 Police Officer lines the Bloomberg administration plans to eliminate, calling the perception of public safety a 'bellwether' for the city's economic health. 'Diminish the police force and you diminish the tax base,' he said. At right is City Councilman Alan J. Gerson.

The Chief-Leader/Adrienne Haywood-James

'AS COPS GO, SO GOES THE CITY': Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch said it was essential to restore 1,000 Police Officer lines the Bloomberg administration plans to eliminate, calling the perception of public safety a 'bellwether' for the city's economic health. 'Diminish the police force and you diminish the tax base,' he said. At right is City Councilman Alan J. Gerson.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly in March had told the Council that he would reduce the department's headcount by 1,000 officers as part of a mandated budget reduction because of recruiting problems. At the time, he was anticipating that headcount, which previously had been budgeted at slightly below 38,000, would fall to 34,624 by the end of June.

Headcount Now 35,700

The NYPD's chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said the day after the PBA/Council press conference on the City Hall steps that uniformed headcount was actually closer to 35,700. The lower attrition rate, he said, had allowed the department to scale back the size of the Police Academy class that will be inducted next month from 1,817 to about 1,250.

During the intervening period, a PBA contract arbitration award was issued that significantly raised starting salary while providing a pay increase to all cops of nearly 10 percent, which figured to help in both recruiting and retaining officers.

Deputy Commissioner Browne said the new police class should allow the department to get close to its lower targeted headcount of 36,838, but Mr. Lynch and the Council Members insisted that wasn't enough.

'Crime's on the Way Up'

The PBA leader said following the press conference that the union's prediction that a short-handed force would precipitate a rise in crime had been prophetic. "Crime is on the way up," he contended. "That means murders, rapes and robberies."

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RAYMOND W. KELLY: Tough to hit old target.

Mr. Kelly, Council Members noted, recently testified that shootings were up by 20 percent compared to the same period last year and robberies had risen six percent.

Whatever budgetary savings were realized by not maintaining the old headcount, Mr. Lynch said, would be more than canceled out if residents and tourists began to perceive the city as crime-prone.

"If people feel safe on the street, they will move here, they'll visit here, they'll work here," he said. "If they don't feel safe, they'll go elsewhere. Diminish the police force and you diminish the tax base."

Earlier, on the City Hall steps, Council Member Alan J. Gerson called it a necessity to return to the old headcount, saying, "Bring them into the academy and get them on the street as soon as possible."

"More police officers means safer streets," said Council Member Peter F. Vallone Jr., who chairs the Public Safety Committee. "Even if we were safer, the point is ... we are starting to see losses in the battle against crime for the first time in recent history that any of us can remember. We cannot allow crime to return and erase all the progress we have achieved in the past two decades ... If we don't do something to stem that, it will take forever to once again get it under control."

'Don't Feel Safe'

Council Members from across the city said the tide has already begun to turn. Queens Council Member Tony Avella said, "I can tell you that my constituents, day in and day out, tell me they don't feel safe anymore."

Staten Island has been hit particularly hard, contended Council Member Michael E. McMahon. "We have some of the highest increases in crime rates of anywhere in the city. Yet from the last class [of police academy graduates], our precinct got no new officers," he said.

Council Member and Finance Committee Chairman David Weprin agreed that cutting the police force would hurt the economy as well as the crime rate. "Perception of safety is what keeps tourists coming," he said. And more cops means more tourists - especially foreigners looking to take advantage of the weakened dollar - and more money in the city's coffers. That revenue, he said, would "more than pay for" the savings the Mayor hopes to gain by reducing budgeted headcount.

"We will continue to fight crime with the authorized headcount provided for in the budget," Mr. Browne said in a June 20 statement.