New York Daily News


It's a crime!

Kelly: We may be forced to scrap vital Operation Impact

BY FRANK LOMBARDI and ALISON GENDAR DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

One of the NYPD's most effective crimefighting weapons could be taken off the streets because the department can't hire enough rookies to staff it, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly warned yesterday.

Operation Impact, in which the NYPD floods crime hot spots with two-thirds of the graduating Police Academy class, is at grave risk after a recruiting dropoff - all because of the paltry $25,100 starting pay, Kelly told the City Council.

"We won't be able to have an Operation Impact" if the current manpower crunch continues, Kelly grimly predicted.

"I think this is the most critical labor issue facing this city."

The NYPD expects to hire fewer than 800 rookies cops for its next academy class, starting this summer - well below the 2,800 budgeted.

When coupled with a nearly 18% current attrition rate for rookies, that means the department won't have enough graduating cops to staff impact zones when the class graduates in January.

The flood of blue in 14 targeted high-crime areas has pushed down crime 19% so far this year, police officials said. In previous years, the cumulative crime drop has approached 30% in impact zones over 12 months.

But if tiny police classes become the norm, all the new recruits will have to be sent "out in police precincts doing standard patrols" to make up for regular attrition and retirements, Kelly said.

The NYPD has been short of bodies since an arbitration panel reduced the starting pay for rookie cops to $25,100 a year while in the academy and a measly $32,700 a year afterward.

The decision took effect with the class that entered the Police Academy in January 2006.

The shortage means the academy is considering returning to just one shift a day to train new recruits, police sources said.

Previous police classes were so large that the academy had been run on double shifts, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 4 p.m. to midnight, police sources said.

Kelly said the manpower shortage justified a new approach to collective bargaining: The city should have the freedom to negotiate a separate percentage increase for cops.

Traditionally, the city gives the same percentage increases to all city unions, a process known as "pattern bargaining."

"Police Commissioner Kelly is absolutely correct about the dismal failure of pattern bargaining and the severe consequences on police operations," said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

But Mayor Bloomberg shot down the idea yesterday.

"Pattern bargaining has been the standard in this city for probably 100 years," Bloomberg said, adding it was the responsibility of the PBA to come to the bargaining table.

With Michael Saul