New York Daily News

January 9, 2003

Commish may ax cops

Fiscal woes could lead to first layoffs since '70s

By RICHARD WEIR DAILY NEWS POLICE BUREAU

For the first time since being forced to slash the NYPD's budget in the fall, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said yesterday he may have to lay off cops.

Kelly's gloomy assessment follows a demand this week by Mayor Bloomberg's budget chief that city agencies further trim their proposed budgets because of worsening economic conditions.

In November, the Police Department was forced to cut its 2002-03 fiscal year budget by 2.5%, or $84.2 million. The department's force of 37,800 officers was expected to drop to 37,210 by June 30 - through retirement and attrition.

The proposed budget for the 2003-04 fiscal year, which begins July 1, was already cut by 5.7%. Kelly said yesterday that the budget chief is calling for another 3% cut, or $94 million, on top of that.

Asked whether the department could meet that demand without the first police layoffs since the 1970s, Kelly said, "It would be difficult."

The commissioner did not offer any specifics, and it was unclear how much attrition would factor into thinning the ranks.

"We have to continue to provide services. Nobody wants to lay off police officers. We have to examine all the ramifications," Kelly said.

'Not an option'

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association suggested that the NYPD's staffing is "already at dangerously low levels" and said layoffs should be out of the question.

"Laying off police officers as this city struggles to fight terrorism and rebuild its economy is not an option," union President Pat Lynch said in a statement.

"Without adequate numbers of police officers, this city is not viable for business or people. Our streets must be safe for anything else to matter," he added.

The police force peaked at 40,800 officers in March 2000. The NYPD's budget is $3.4 billion. While no officers have been laid off, the department sent pink slips to 103 janitors last month.

Before the latest demand for cuts, the NYPD was planning to hire new recruits in July because projected rates of attrition would have reduced its ranks below the target figure of 37,210.

Kelly said there are no plans yet to scuttle the July hiring. He also said Bloomberg may spare the Police Department the depth of cuts other agencies face to maintain the decreased crime rate.

"I think the mayor is very sensitive and very much aware of the reduction in [the NYPD's] head count and the impact it has on crimefighting," he said. "The question is, 'Is there some give in the number in the negotiations?' The answer is yes."