October 11, 2013


Cop Unions: Shortage Of Officers Leads To Patchwork, Bad Will



PATRICK J. LYNCH: ‘A slap in the face to cops.’


Two police union leaders spoke out last week about a lack of cops in the precincts, with the head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association blaming staff shortages for the imposition of quotas on matters like stop-and-frisk that he said disrupt the relationship between police and community.

‘Pressuring Our Members’

“We are troubled that deep reductions in the ranks of police officers resulted in the NYPD’s management pressuring our members to perform specific numbers of stops in order to compensate for the lack of staffing in local precincts,” PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said in an e-mail to THE CHIEF-LEADER.

“The PBA has warned over and over again that quotas for police activities are bad for our members and for the communities they protect. The byproduct of these bad policies is this misplaced backlash against police officers that generated the calls for the Community Safety Act, an Inspector General and a Federal monitor. Any fiscal benefit generated by reduced police staffing has been negated by the poor police-community relations that these bad policies have created. 

“Our message is that the road to good police-community relations and real crime reduction is paved by adequate staffing in the neighborhood stationhouses,” he summed up.

“Quotas are the worst possible way to try to produce more effective policing,” he wrote in an Oct. 7 op-ed column in the Daily News. “They risk turning officers into automatons and fuel predictable, pervasive distrust between cops and communities.”

“The problem is that the numbers [of cars on patrol] are consistently changing,” Edward D. Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said in an interview. A precinct might start out with three patrol cars and a Sergeant’s car during a patrol shift, but a fixed post could divert one car and an arrest could put another out of service. It’s not unheard of to wind up with just two cars available for an entire precinct, he said.

Seat-of-the-Pants Patrols

When this happens, he said, Sergeants may put an officer who had been assigned a foot post into a car, borrow someone from another precinct, assign the anti-crime team to pick up radio calls rather than looking for street crime, or use a cop who returned from court after an arrest.

“We try to get the job done,” he said. Personnel shortages mean “a uniform is chasing the radio all night long,” he said, unable to address street conditions like speeding, prostitution or loitering. In an attempt to whittle down the backlog of calls, he said, “the sector [car] can’t always follow the Patrol Guide.” However, he said, the officer—and the Sergeant—can be held responsible if any shortcuts taken blow up.

Eugene O’Donnell, a Professor at John Jay College who has been a city police officer and prosecutor, agreed. “People tell me about precincts with four cops on the street, six cops on the street,” he said in an interview “...Neighborhood precincts are running on empty when it comes to patrol.”

The department now has about 34,500 uniformed officers, down from a high of nearly 41,000 in 2001. Upcoming retirements of many of the 7,000 officers hired under the Safe Streets, Safe City program between 1993 and 1998 are expected to worsen the staffing problem.

Blame It on Bloomberg

“You can’t blame anyone other than the Mayor” for the decline in manpower, Mr. Mullins said. Mayor Bloomberg has said there’s no problem with reducing the size of the NYPD because crime has continued to decline.

It’s not just the Police Department. Mr. Mullins questioned a pilot program starting in the 120th Precinct in Staten Island in which officers will be given drugs they can administer to overdose victims before the Emergency Medical Service arrives. “Why are we doing the job of EMS?” he asked. “I smell a shortage in EMS and the Fire Department.”