April 19, 2011

Mayor Assailed on Move To
Delay a Police Class


PATRICK J. LYNCH: ‘Puts cops at greater risk.’   CHRISTINE C. QUINN: ‘Rash, misguided decision.’  

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and influential City Council Members last week criticized Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to delay the police class that was scheduled to start this month and combine it with the class scheduled for July.

“The NYPD is already at dangerously low staffing levels with 6,000 fewer police officers on our streets than in 2001,” said PBA President Patrick Lynch. “Canceling the April class of 540 police officers is a bad decision that will compound the existing staffing problem, compromise public safety and put our police officers at greater risk.”

Second Delay for Class

It is the second postponement for the class, which was supposed to start in January. Moving the start date to July will allow the costs to be counted in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, rather than the current one. The department now has about 34,500 uniformed officers, down from a high of 40,500 a decade ago.

City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, in a letter to Mr. Bloomberg co-signed by Finance Committee Chairman Domenic M. Recchia Jr. and Public Safety Committee Chairman Peter F. Vallone Jr., said, “Further delaying or even possibly eliminating a class this size could jeopardize our continued efforts to keep New York the safest city in the country...Throughout nine rounds of budget cuts we have consistently fought to preserve funding for cadet classes.”

“This decision was made without any public discussion and without consulting the members of this Council, who approved a budget that included this class,” the letter said. “To make this critical funding decision without any discussion is simply a slap in the face, and shows tremendous disrespect” for the Council’s cost-cutting efforts. “We urge you to reconsider this rash and misguided decision.”

‘Puts Public Safety at Risk’

Ms. Quinn told the Wall Street Journal that Council lawyers will research whether it’s possible to block Mr. Bloomberg from delaying the class. “It’s simply something we’re not going to take lying down,” she said.

“By the time any cadets hired in July get onto the streets, it will be January 2012,” Mr. Vallone said. “And as every month goes by, we lose over 100 officers to attrition.”

“Cutting into patrol strength is just ill-conceived,” Ms. Quinn told the Journal. “In the end, we will just have to pay through overtime for police officers regardless, but it is a decision that puts public safety at risk.”

A spokesman for the Mayor downplayed any risk to public safety. “The last three years were the three safest in New York City’s history, and crime is down again this year,” said Stu Loeser.

Unclear on Size of Class

While the April and July classes will be combined, he said, the number of recruits actually hired has yet to be determined and will depend on the city’s budget. The July class had been scheduled to have 900 members.

Police spokesman Paul J. Browne said that even “in adjusting to the tough fiscal reality,” the department had managed to reduce major crimes this year. “We’ll continue to fight crime with what we have,” he said.

The NYPD’s crime statistics have come under fire from some police experts, civil-liberties advocates and defense lawyers, who charge that some uniformed personnel reclassify serious crimes as lesser offenses or refuse to take complaints in order to keep the numbers down.