New York Daily News

August 31, 2014


 

NYPD Police Commissioner Bratton changes tune, says he needs another 1,000 cops after all 

The police boss had rejected a City Council push for extra hiring just months ago, before the budget was passed. Bratton said at a Council hearing Monday that he will be looking for more than a thousand new cops next year.


BY ROCCO PARASCANDOLA
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS POLICE BUREAU CHIEF

He didn't need those extra cops last spring — but he needs them now.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Monday he’ll push to hire more than 1,000 new NYPD officers next year — despite rejecting a City Council proposal for that many new cops just months ago.

“It will be in excess of 1,000 additional officers we will be looking for,” Bratton told the Council at a hearing convened to probe the department’s new training policies in response to the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

He later said he rejected the previous Council push for more cops during budget negotiations because he needed time to analyze how big the department’s head count should be.

“I can be very comfortable in saying to you that we need more. That’s quite clear,” he told reporters, saying by next year’s budget he’d be able to deliver “an actual head count that’s based on analysis that I can justify, what number of cops ... do we actually need.”

He sang a different tune in the budget wrangling from April to June, when he said the force was doing fine at its current size and using overtime was a more effective way to get more patrols on the street.

In a compromise with the Council, the NYPD moved 200 cops out of desk jobs and onto the street, replacing them with civilians. Bratton said at the time that extra officers on the street through OT and civilianization would combat a recent surge in shootings.

Mayor de Blasio, who joined Bratton earlier in opposing the call for more cops, was noncommittal Monday.

“The mayor and his team will review staffing and expenditure proposals received from every commissioner and department when the regular budget process begins next year,” said spokesman Phil Walzak.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who led the failed charge for more cops in this year’s budget, welcomed Bratton’s turnabout. “More personnel is necessary and there was an acknowledgment of that today,” she said.

But Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said the numbers Bratton is discussing just aren’t enough.

“While 1,000 more officers will help, it is nowhere near the number of officers that we need to bring us to the levels necessary to patrol communities and to safeguard against terrorist acts,” Lynch said.

Bratton said the new officers would go to a variety of assignments, but would be needed in part to staff an ambitious retraining effort launched after Garner’s death on Staten Island.

All cops will receive a three-day course designed to school them on the use of force, including how to arrest uncooperative suspects without getting physical and how to use force without causing injuries.

That training will begin in November and is expected to cost $25 million to $30 million.

“We owe it to our officers, we owe it to the public to regularly train them on issues that cause tension or friction with the public,” Bratton said. “The benefit of it is to reduce to the greatest degree possible the incidents of use of force, whether it takes a life or causes an injury or causes resentment in the community.”

The training will also include a workshop called “Blue Courage” that has been used elsewhere in the country and teaches cultural sensitivity.

Despite the overhaul, Bratton defended the department as a “model of restraint.” Only 1.9% of arrests involve force, down from 4.6% in 2004 and 8.5% in 1992, he said. And 25 people were shot by cops last year, down from 111 in 1999.

In more than two hours of wide-ranging testimony, Bratton also said he’d support equipping more officers with Tasers so they would have a “less than lethal” way to subdue violent suspects.

And he said he would not support legislation to make the chokehold, banned by department policy, a crime.

“Chokeholds are not illegal,” he said, arguing that the department’s policy banning the procedure is sufficient.

Bratton also revealed he is working with city lawyers to mount an “aggressive” defense against lawsuits he sees as frivolous, charging some city law firms have turned into “factories” for junk suits against cops.

“The city sees them as nuisance complaints and settles,” he said. “It’s not fair to the taxpayer of the city to be basically enriching some attorneys ... who have found a way to beat the system.”

While asking some pointed questions, Council members were largely friendly to Bratton and welcomed his pledge to turn around the NYPD’s relationship with minority communities.

But a small group of protesters outside City Hall said new training would make no difference.

“Trainings and retrainings really have a very small effect on the culture of brutality in the NYPD,” said Josmar Trujillo, of the group New Yorkers Against Bratton. He blamed the “broken windows” policy of making arrests for small offenses for the death of Garner, who was suspected of selling illegal cigarettes.

“It’s the policy, stupid,” Trujillo said.

rparascandola@nydailynews.com