Newsday
February 22, 2003

Graduation Crowd No Fans of Mayor

  Graduation
  Above and below: New York City Police Academy graduates at yesterday's graduation ceremony at Madison Square Garden. ) (Newsday Photos/Viorel Florescu)
  Graduation

By Melanie Lefkowitz STAFF WRITER

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was roundly booed by relatives of the NYPD's newest members at their graduation ceremony yesterday, a week after he promised no police layoffs but said he'd reconsider if the union doesn't agree to increased productivity.

Crisp rows of 2,108 new officers filled the floor of Madison Square Garden as about 10,000 friends and relatives applauded, shouted their names then loudly booed and heckled Bloomberg both times he was introduced. "Most people cheered. There were a handful of people who weren't thrilled," Bloomberg said later. "You can't worry about that."

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who described the crowd as "rambunctious," dismissed the catcalling as typical.

"Mayors have always gotten a little static at Police Department graduations," Kelly said after the ceremony. "He's made some tough decisions and we're going to have to make some more."

Statistics  

The Police Department is grappling with budget issues that could shrink the force to early 1990s levels. There are about 37,800 police officers - including the graduates, who were hired when they entered the academy. According to the mayor's November budget plan, the department's target is 37,210 by July, and Kelly reiterated yesterday that he hopes to meet that goal through attrition.

Even as their numbers decline, police duties have expanded to include counterterrorism measures.

"You're well-prepared to join our vigilant watch over this city," Kelly told the recruits. All the new officers were trained to respond to terrorist attacks, Kelly said, and all will be equipped with new protective suits that the department will receive late next month.

A large percentage of the graduating class will be assigned to high-crime areas as part of Operation Impact, an intensive policing program introduced last week that Kelly said is already making its mark. Crime citywide was down more than 11 percent last week compared with the same week in 2002, he said.

The latest academy class is 25 percent Hispanic, 18 percent black, 5 percent Asian and 20 percent female, police officials said. About 500 have four-year college degrees, 400 have two-year degrees, and 200 have served in the military.