August 19, 2004

All hands on deck

Huge security demands for the GOP convention mean few will go untapped, including recruits


Facing big challenges on several fronts, the Police Department will call up all available hands during the GOP convention, including enlisting its rawest recruits to direct traffic.

All at once, the NYPD confronts a threatened illegal sickout, troop strength sapped by budget concerns, new terrorist-threat warnings from the Bush administration and anti-war demonstrations.

On top of that are the more routine security measures, from blocked streets to mass-transit concerns, that go with having a national political conclave in town.

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association activists, meanwhile, have made the chants "No Contract, No Convention" and "Blue Flu on Convention Day" their most threatening slogans as they follow Mayor Michael Bloomberg around the city.

They brought the chanting close to the mayor's landmark East Side brownstone early yesterday before he took off for the Olympics in Athens, but Bloomberg said it didn't bother him.

Police acknowledge plans to use recruits during the convention, but top brass insists all preparations are unrelated to the labor threat.

"Their role is exclusively traffic control, and that's been part of the planning all along," Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said, referring to the cadets. He added that the newbies will be supervised by senior cops as has been the case in the past.

Overtime costs are expected to be huge, budget experts say.

With or without a confirmed link to the labor dispute, the use of hundreds who have yet to graduate from the Police Academy led PBA President Pat Lynch to lament the way attrition has thinned police ranks.

"We've said publicly that it's not an initiative that the union instigated or supports," spokesman Al O'Leary said. "Frankly, they are struggling any way they can to find resources to keep the city safe."

Some Correction Department insiders said they believed recruits from a new class formed only last week were being prepared for a role in convention patrols. Agency spokesman Tom Antenen strenuously denied any such activity.

The mayor, appearing at the Tweed Courthouse yesterday, said, "We have the greatest police department and fire department. The people that work there are not going to strike. They're very proud of the job they do.

"You've got a handful of hotheads who, late at night, I think they were gathered together half a block away from where I live," he said. "You don't win any friends by yelling and screaming and waking people up at 1:30 in the morning.

"I slept very well," Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg also warned that the NYPD will be stretched too thin to accommodate shifting a planned rally of 250,000 by United for Peace and Justice to Central Park, which is now the group's goal in federal court.