March 31 2014

Bratton: Adding Cops Would Help to Drive Down Crime Further

By Mark Toor

PATRICK J. LYNCH: Replenish troops and pay them better.  
WILLIAM J. BRATTON: ‘Concerned about staffing levels.’  

MAYOR DE BLASIO: Thinks he’s got enough cops.


Police Commissioner William J. Bratton told a City Council hearing last week that New York needs more cops, a position endorsed by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which for years has bemoaned the fact that the department has shrunk from nearly 41,000 uniformed officers in 2001 to about 34,500 today.

When asked about manpower in precincts, he said, “I am very concerned about the low staffing levels as a result of the loss of those 6,000.”

Extra Cops Paid Off

Mr. Bratton recalled his first term as Commissioner under Mayor Rudy Giuliani after the Safe Streets, Safe City Program established by Mayor David Dinkins levied a temporary tax that allowed the hiring of additional officers.

“I know how much I benefited from...being able to put an extra 50 to 100 officers in each precinct, and then watching crime rates decline in each precinct of the city by double digits for the next several years,” he said.

“We agree with the Commissioner’s call to hire more police officers,” PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said. “Public safety and the safety of our officers demand it. We anticipate additional burdens on patrol officers brought by the Federal monitor and a new Inspector General that will cut into patrol time. We must replenish the officers who were removed from local precincts for the fight against terrorism.”

The NYPD’s counter-terror program is believed to involve about 1,000 officers.

‘Pay Them Market Rate’

Mr. Lynch added a plug for upcoming contract negotiations: “And if we are to keep our experienced officers on the job and attract qualified candidates, then we must pay our police officers a market rate of pay or risk losing them to other better-paying law-enforcement jobs.”

The approximately 6,500 officers hired under Safe Streets, Safe City are now beginning to qualify for retirement, worsening the NYPD’s staffing problem. Bratton said the city plans to hire 967 officers in July and 533 more in January 2015 to replace the 1,333 officers expected to retire this year.

Over the past year, Mr. Bratton has gone back and forth about the size of the department. “I actually think that the force is now too small,” he told the Manhattan Institute last June.

At the time, he said low staffing levels were partly to blame for the stop-and-frisk controversy, arguing that the department had become too small to keep experienced officers assigned to precinct beats. Then-Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly responded to the shortage with Operation Impact, which flooded high-crime areas with rookies just out of the Police Academy.

Led to Overkill

Impact officers, who were often inadequately supervised and given only vague instructions about their duties, conducted a disproportionately large number of stops. Community residents complained that they were stopping people without legal cause and were abusing those people physically and verbally.

Then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s refusal to discuss the issue led the City Council to pass laws over his veto that they hoped would rein in the practice. And U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled last August that the NYPD was conducting stops in an unconstitutional manner. Mayor de Blasio is in the process of dropping the Bloomberg administration’s appeal of her decision.

Mr. Bratton told the Manhattan Institute that the stop-and-frisk dispute “ultimately was created by a political decision to cut the size of the police force to try and meet budgetary needs with the justification that crime was down so dramatically, do we need as many cops?”

But when Mr. de Blasio announced his appointment in December, Mr. Bratton said, “I’m comfortable that the force I’m being given is adequate at this time to deal with the issues as I understand them.”

Mayor: We’ve Got Enough

The Mayor has said he believes the NYPD is big enough to deal with the current reported crime levels, which are down sharply from the beginning of his predecessor’s 12-year tenure.

Mr. Bloomberg had also opposed increasing the size of the department, saying that while smaller it was still able to reduce crime each year. “Our job is not to employ as many of the people as to spend as much of the taxpayers’ money as we can,” he said on his radio show in July 2012. “Our job with the Police Department is to bring crime down. It is phenomenally well-managed.”

Another reason for expanding the department comes from two new sources of oversight, Mr. Bratton said. One is the Federal monitor appointed by Judge Scheindlin to watch changes in the stop-and-frisk policy. Another is the NYPD Inspector General approved by the City Council in hope of improving that program.

The Commissioner said the budget for the Inspector General called for a staff of 30. “I would anticipate that we would need 60 to 90 additional people to meet the needs of the Inspector General,” he said.

‘Precincts Deplorable’

Asked by a Council Member about conditions in precinct stationhouses, Mr. Bratton said bluntly, “There is no denying that the conditions in many of our facilities, particularly our police precincts, are, quite frankly, deplorable.”

The conditions are the result of “a century of neglect,” he said. Among other issues, he said, electrical and air-conditioning systems need updating.

He told reporters after the hearing that he was working on an estimate for sprucing up stationhouses.

During his seven-year stint as Los Angeles Police Chief, he said, the city built 22 police stations—at a cost of $1 billion.