February 9, 2015 5:15 pm

Bratton to Senate: NYPD Needs Additional Officers

Cites New Specialized Units


Testifying before a State Senate committee, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton reiterated Feb. 4 that the NYPD needs more cops.

State Sen. Marty Golden, a former police officer, asked Mr. Bratton how many uniformed police officers are on the street each day.

‘Not Enough’

“There are not enough, to be quite frank with you,” Mr. Bratton said.

“What is enough?” Mr. Golden asked.

Mr. Bratton did not answer the question directly, but he noted that the number of uniformed members of the NYPD had dropped from nearly 41,000 about the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to about 35,000 now.

Meanwhile, he said, the department was staffing a counterterrorism unit created after 9/11, responding to a million more emergency calls and also handling assignments from the 311 non-emergency system created by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“We are in discussions, as we always are, with the political leadership of the city, the Mayor and City Council, as to what a more appropriate staffing figure might be,” he told Mr. Golden.

Would Need 850 for Units

At the end of January, Mr. Bratton proposed a new unit of 600 officers that would move between counter-terrorism duties and handling protests. After advocates objected to the idea of machine-gun-toting officers interacting with demonstrators, Mr. Bratton split the unit into one for counterterrorism and one for roving assignments such as protests. The units together would total 850 officers, he said.

That would account for almost all of the 1,000 officers he told the City Council he needed last fall. In fact, he said at the time, he would probably need more, pending a departmental re-engineering study that was completed at the end of last year.

During the budget process last year, Mr. Bratton followed Mayor de Blasio’s lead in saying the department’s overtime budget was large enough to allow it to meet expected challenges without growing in size. But he apparently changed his mind for the coming year’s budget.

Mr. de Blasio has already committed hundreds of millions of dollars beyond the budget this fiscal year for technological efforts such as body cameras and smartphones for each officer.

PBA: Let It Grow

Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, agreed with Mr. Bratton that the city needs the NYPD to grow in size.

“We will ask for legislation that mandates a return to the NYPD’s 1999 staffing level, and that sets a minimum standard for staffing that will rise with the city’s growth in the future,” he told the committee.

He said the new hiring could be financed by a temporary increase in business and property taxes like the one imposed under Mayor David Dinkins, whose Safe Streets, Safe City program eventually increased the size of the department to more than 38,000 officers.

‘No Crime Problem’

Mr. Bratton rejected a contention by Mr. Golden that the spike in homicides and other crimes that occurred in January showed the city has a new problem to deal with. “We don’t have a crime problem in New York City,” he said. “The murder and shooting increases from January are already decreasing.”

Further, he dismissed a suggestion by the Brooklyn Senator that the state needed to pass sterner legislation to deal with disruptive demonstrators. Mr. Golden was referring to protests of the grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner. Many New Yorkers complained that the protesters frequently left containment areas to block traffic.

Chief of Department James O’Neill said officers kept a relatively light hand on the demonstrators because “a lot of the protest was directed at the NYPD. We didn’t want to be the flashpoint.” But, he said, about 400 arrests were made of protesters who were involved in violence and vandalism.

Mr. Bratton and Mr. Lynch both urged increased safety measures for police officers. But Mr. Bratton said he did not favor one proposal in Albany to require bulletproof windows for police cars. “We do not believe it would be prudent,” he said.

$50,000 Per Car

Installing such windows would cost $50,000 per car, he said, and the windows would only open a few inches. That would make it difficult for officers to hear what is going on in the street and to escape the car if it became necessary, he said.

Instead, he proposed adding bullet-resistant panels to the lower half of car doors, as he said was done in the Los Angeles Police Department, which he used to head. The reinforced panels give additional protection to officers who stand behind them during traffic stops, he said.

Mr. Lynch said he favored both bullet-resistant windows and ballistic panels in car doors. “The more layers we have of safety and protection, the better off we are,” he said.

Mr. Bratton urged the Legislature to increase the penalties for violence against police officers, for disclosing personal information that could lead to the identification of officers, and for identifying undercovers. He also urged new laws and stricter enforcement on tinting automobile windows, which can hide dangers for officers making car stops.

Toughen ‘Resist’ Penalties

In response to a question from Sen. Michael Nozzolio, he said he would favor legislation increasing penalties for resisting arrest. The death of Mr. Garner—who resisted arrest for allegedly selling loose cigarettes, then had a heart attack after officers tackled him—brought the issue into prominence.

“There is no right to resist arrest,” Mr. Bratton said. “The Mayor’s stated that. I’ve stated that quite clearly. And we have too many instances in which arrests are in fact resisted”—although he said later that it appeared that resistance cases had dropped about 15 percent from 2013 to 2014.

The Commissioner said most resisting-arrest charges never make the courtroom. “In the vast majority of these instances, there are no charges filed,” he said. “In some respects, it’s a get-out-of-jail-free card to assault an officer. We need to do a better job on our end giving the District Attorneys the evidence they need to help going forward with the prosecution.”

PBA Proposals

Mr. Lynch offered six other recommendations to the committee:

• Stop local legislative bodies from passing laws involving criminal justice and police procedure. He was referring to bills such as one in the City Council that would criminalize use of chokeholds by police officers, which is already forbidden by department policy.

• Oppose efforts to create “a separate justice system” that would make it easier to indict officers in cases such as Eric Garner’s. In his State of the State Address in January, Governor Cuomo proposed special reviews of grand-jury proceedings in such cases.

• Increase penalties for threats and assaults on police officers, or encouraging such violence.

• Provide a steady funding stream for replacing worn-out bullet-resistant vests.

• Fund an anti-terror kit for city police officers “consisting at the very least of an assault rifle and tactical body armor, including a ballistic helmet.”

• Restore full line-of-duty disability benefits for officers hired beginning in 2010.