February 14, 2002

Even the NYPD Would Take a Hit

By Leonard Levitt STAFF WRITER

Staff writer Anthony M. DeStefano contributed to this story.

In the first manpower cut in a decade, the Police Department will be reduced from its budgeted size by 1,600 officers through attrition, Commissioner Raymond Kelly said yesterday.

Kelly called the cuts, coming with Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed slicing of 7 percent in the police budget, "significant, not symbolic." But when asked about changes in enforcement strength, he said, "I don't see it [changing] in any significant way."

He added, "It is not going to diminish our ability to keep crime down."

Speaking to reporters at One Police Plaza, Kelly offered a snapshot view of the department's size and short-term future. The current budgeted strength of 40,710 officers would drop to 39,100. He did not mention any particular units or programs to be affected.

Officials said 2,600 officers are expected to retire through the fiscal year ending on June 30, while 1,000 officers will be hired July 1. Eight hundred civilians will also be hired then, Kelly said, enabling some officers assigned to civilian duties to go back on patrol.

To put these figures in perspective, even with the reductions, the size of the department is nearly 8,000 officers greater than when Kelly began his first term as police commissioner in 1992. Then the city, under Mayor David N. Dinkins, was in the process of adding 5,000 new cops under the federal program known as "Safe Streets, Safe Cities," which brought police strength to 31,500.

However, Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, called the cuts "a dangerous move" and cautioned that the department might not be able "to continue our quality-of-life initiatives. We won't be able to keep up with the threat of terrorism."

"The problem will get worse as more police officers become eligible for retirement," Lynch said.

Tony Garvey, president of the Lieutenants Benevolent Association, sounded more sanguine.

"It's my understanding that the Police Department will not be adversely affected in terms of head count," Garvey said. "It will affect us, but we will have to do more with less. There will be pain all around. The question is how much."

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said yesterday that all district attorney offices in the city are being asked to take 7 percent budget cuts along with the police. However, Brown maintained that the police are able to recoup some of the lost city money through other sources such as federal funding, something prosecutors cannot do.

"The ability of the cops to make it up is a luxury we don't have," Brown said. "You can't ask us to take more of a cut than cops do without impacting our ability to prosecute cases."

Brown, who has a $37 million budget, said prosecutors were "acutely aware" of the city's financial bind but that Bloomberg's proposed budget was going to be subject of debate in the City Council.