April 14, 2014

Despite Bratton, PBA Concerns, Mayor Says NYPD Not Short Staff

Commissioner Notes Dept. Has Used Overtime To Cover Gaps

By Mark Toor

The Chief-Leader/Michel Friang
AT EASE, RECRUITS: NYPD recruits stand in formation on a third-floor terrace at the Police Academy April 8 to hear words of wisdom from Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner William J. Bratton. At the feet of each recruit is a Police Academy duffel bag with a baton strapped to the side.

Mayor de Blasio last week contradicted his Police Commissioner’s suggestion that the city needed more cops, saying that the NYPD appeared to be the proper size right now.

PATRICK J. LYNCH:  Must replenish precinct staffing.  

“I think this department is doing an extraordinary job with the resources it has, obviously continuing to keep crime low,” he told reporters April 8 after speaking to recruits at the Police Academy. “I’ve felt for a long time, when you see that level of effectiveness and you see it on such a sustained basis, it tells us something about the fact that we’re at a good and capable size right now.”

6,000 Below ’01 Peak

The department has about 34,500 uniformed officers, some 6,000 below its peak headcount in 2001. At any time, between 800 and 1,200 of those officers are undergoing six months of Academy training.

Commissioner William J. Bratton appeared to be on board with his boss.

“There’s not a police chief in America that wouldn’t tell you he needs more cops,” he said.

But he said the NYPD had a secret weapon. “There’s an overtime budget that effectively gives you the equivalent of those officers on a daily basis,” he said, “so while the department’s headcount is down by 6,000, the overtime we have available to us effectively allows us to police as if we had a larger department.”

Overtime also goes to non-patrol units, such as Detective squads, and to officers who are processing arrests.

Mr. Bratton told the City Council last month, “I am very concerned about the low staffing levels as a result of the loss of those 6,000.”

When Mr. Bratton said he’d like to see more police officers, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch agreed with him. “Public safety and the safety of our officers demand it,” he said.

Root of the Problem

After Mr. de Blasio’s remarks last week, he said, “We trace back all the ill will and legal trouble that developed around quotas for stop, question and frisk to the severe shortage of police officers in the local precincts. 

“With between 6,000 and 7,000 fewer officers on the streets, local commands were down by over 100 officers per precinct, which allowed crime hotspots to grow,” he continued. “The misguided answer to that problem was to flood the area with police officers who were given quotas for police actions. Had the local precincts been adequately staffed with officers familiar with the neighborhood, then these hotspots never would have occurred in the first place.”

Addressing hundreds of recruits lined up in formation on an outdoor patio, Mr. de Blasio hit on his favorite themes for the NYPD: that it’s “the finest police organization on Earth,” that Mr. Bratton is “the greatest police leader in the country” and that officers can treat residents with respect at the same time they bring crime down.

He has been working to counteract the tension created between officers and the people they serve by what critics call the overuse of the stop, question and frisk tactic under his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, and Mr. Bloomberg’s Police Commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly.

Echoing another favorite theme, Mr. de Blasio said, “To bring police and community back together begins with the way we train the men and women of the NYPD.”

“You are who we look to when the chips are down,” he told the recruits. “That is why you’re called New York’s Finest.

'In Harm's Way'

“We saw that kind of bravery and dedication in Coney Island on Sunday,” he said, referring to two officers who suffered from smoke inhalation while responding to a fire at a housing project. One, Police Officer Dennis Guerra, died April 9; the other, Police Officer Rosa Rodriguez, remains in critical condition.

“The job, sadly but truly, requires selflessness, that kind of ability to put yourself in harm’s way,” Mr. de Blasio said.

On a happier note, he told the recruits that as the ties between police and community grow stronger, “you’ll be able to do your job better every day.”

He warned them, “You can’t do it alone. You need each other and you need the people of the community you serve.”

Mr. Bratton told the recruits what they have to look forward to after graduation in three months: “You will have a life of great significance, a life that matters every day.”