Chief-Leader
June 29, 2015 5:00 pm

 

Thanks, But It’s Not Enough: PBA Gripes About Police Hiring

By MARK TOOR

   
PATRICK J. LYNCH: ‘A drop in the bucket.’  

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association says the 1,297 additional cops agreed to by Mayor de Blasio and the City Council under the new city budget last week is not enough.

Those officers are “a drop in the bucket, since we have lost nearly 7,000 since since 2001,” President Patrick J. Lynch said in a statement. “Understaffing not only empowers criminals, but it leads management to make bad policy decisions like quotas for police activities in an effort to compensate for the shortage. The city should fill the new Police Academy now and keep filling it until we reach Safe Streets, Safe City levels of staffing before crime gets out of control.”

‘Handful in Most Precincts’

The NYPD’s current uniformed headcount is about 34,500 pending the new infusion of officers. Under Safe Streets, Safe City, a program established by Mayor David Dinkins and City Council Speaker Peter F. Vallone that temporarily raised taxes to bolster police ranks starting in 1991, the department hit a high of nearly 41,000 officers in 2001, late in Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s second term.

Eugene O’Donnell, a former police officer and prosecutor who teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, agreed that “it’s actually not a large number when you spread them around the organization.” It will translate to “a handful of people for most precincts,” he said in an interview.

Still, he said, the additional officers will mean relief for precincts that are drained of cops when Police Headquarters assigns them to more high-profile posts.

“You just need to walk around and see all the outer-borough cops that are in Manhattan,” he said. “If you live in Bay Ridge or Riverdale, your cops are always in Manhattan.” Predominantly white precincts are most affected, and assignments of more officers there will give Mr. de Blasio a political boost, he said.

Run Short on Late Tours

With the constant reassignments, he said, some precincts can put out only three cars on a midnight shift. And if two of those cars are involved in arrests, that means only one car protecting an area of perhaps 100,000 people. More incidents could require cars dispatched from nearby but similarly-strapped precincts.

The 1,297 new cops will allow an additional 300 officers to be assigned to counterterrorism duties, further relieving pressure on the precincts. Officers were often borrowed from precincts to police demonstrations and to show force in operations such as Critical Response Vehicles.

Mr. de Blasio had steadily opposed calls from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Police Commissioner William J. Bratton to increase the size of the department by 1,000 officers. He said the NYPD was doing a fine job with its current complement.

But he changed his mind last week amid rising numbers of homicides and shootings. The Mayor said crime figures were not a factor in his decision. His aides said he was trying to ensure that Mr. Bratton’s efforts to expand community policing would succeed.

Political Insurance Policy

But many observers said they believed he was trying to avoid the political risk of refusing to allow the NYPD to grow at a time when violent crime was rising.

“A mayoralty stands and falls on public safety,” Mr. O’Donnell said. “The last thing the Mayor wants is a suggestion that City Hall did not do enough to keep the city safe...The city has become wealthy on the basis of public safety above all other factors, so why would you take risks with public safety?”

“If he refuses to add more cops and crime continues to go up, it was going to land on his hands,” Edward D. Mullins, president of the Sergeants’ Benevolent Association, told the Daily News.

The deal on the new cops would partly offset their cost by capping overtime at $513 million in fiscal 2016, $37 million less than projected for this year. The limit will drop to $454 million in fiscal 2017, which begins next July 1.

Mr. O’Donnell could not say how easily the department would stay within the overtime limits, noting that officers who have been without a contract for five years now depend on it to pay their bills.

‘A Happier Job’

But he said the additional hiring will boost morale in a department that sorely needs it. “It makes a happier job when there’s young people coming on in large numbers,” he said.

The hiring will give more opportunities to experienced officers, because new Sergeants will be needed. An expansion of the Detective ranks is also expected. Current officers will move up more quickly in seniority, resulting in better vacation picks and improved chances for whatever special units remain after the department shifts emphasis to patrol.

The new officers will also allow the NYPD to expand a pilot neighborhood-policing program now in four precincts. Under the program, the number of officers assigned to patrol cars is increased, meaning less pressure for cars to move from call to call. That is supposed to give officers a couple of hours a day to get out of their cars, making contacts in the community and working with residents in solving neighborhood problems.

It also reduces the possibility that the department will employ enforcement quotas, as Mr. Lynch mentioned. He was referring to stop-and-frisk goals enforced by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Police Commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly. That strategy was ruled unconstitutional by a Federal Judge who determined that officers were stopping people on the basis of race and ethnicity rather than because they appeared to be involved in a crime.

Police-reform groups that oppose “broken windows” policing as biased in its application and unnecessary criticized the increase in the size of the department.

“How can the so-called progressive leaders of our city justify effectively strengthening an agency that consistently inflicts serious harm and hardship on NY’s most vulnerable citizens?” asked Robert Gangi, director of the Police Reform Organizing Project.