New York Daily News

August 28, 2004

Auxiliary Power to be Tapped by Finest

JONATHAN LEMIRE and MICHAEL SAUL
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

THE POLICE DEPARTMENT is counting on thousands of auxiliary cops to help safeguard the city during the Republican National Convention, the Daily News has learned.

The auxiliary police force - made up of common New Yorkers who volunteer to assist their local precincts - has been tapped to work during the convention, according to an Aug. 12 memo obtained by the Daily News.

The memo called for the auxiliary cops to "provide supplemental uniform police patrols to prevent crime" at homes and businesses, churches and police stationhouses.

"Special attention" will be paid to schools, parks and transit entrances, the memo said.

The memo sparked a war of words between NYPD officials and the police union, whose leaders charged that their members are being spread far too thin - leaving parts of the city vulnerable.

"These auxiliary officers do not have the enforcement capabilities to adequately protect the citizens of this city," said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

"The department clearly does not have enough staffing to handle the RNC and keep other locations safe."

Mayor Bloomberg and top NYPD officials said the department is fully equipped to handle the convention and a slew of other major events next week.

"The rest of this city deserves protection - it will get protection," Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show. "We are not slacking in any place."

NYPD Chief Michael Collins also disputed the notion that the RNC is spreading the ranks too thin.

"For more than 50 years, the NYPD auxiliary police have served this city primarily as extra eyes and ears for the department," Collins said. "Their assignment to RNC duties is just another example of their assistance in keeping New York City the safest big city in America."

Last summer, for example, more than 4,000 auxiliary police officers worked more than 1 million hours assisting cops during the blackout.

A high-ranking NYPD official confirmed yesterday that the department will be using a comparable number of auxiliary officers next week.

Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Queens), chairman of the City Council's Public Safety Committee, said NYPD officials have told him the precincts outside Manhattan will be "severely understaffed."

"I am very concerned about the level of policing in the outer boroughs," Vallone told The News.

"We will have enough manpower to respond to emergencies," Vallone predicted. "But any nonemergencies - a car accident or a burglary - could be waiting hours for police to show up."