New York Post
April 24, 2001



A record-setting exodus of about 3,000 city cops this year - coupled with an inability to attract recruits - is shrinking the size of the NYPD for the first time in more than two decades.

And union leaders and several top cops are reluctantly raising the specter of lowering standards as the only way to replenish the police ranks, which topped out around 41,000 earlier this year.

Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik insisted the NYPD will not be forced to diminish standards.

"The department historically has waves of retirements and hirings and it always comes back," he said. But union presidents say so many cops - faced with low salary, poor morale, but a solid pension - are flocking to the retirement office that there is an eight-month backlog to get an exit interview.

The 3,000 cops expected to leave this year is about 30 percent more than last year's 2,314, which was 50 percent higher than the 1,569 cops who quit in 1998. "It is clear the recruitment aspect has failed, so has retention, " said Tony Garvey, president of the Lieutenants Benevolent Association.

"There is a direct link between low wages and low recruitment," said Bernie Pound, president of the sergeants union.

The NYPD dropped its $35 application fee for the first time since the 1960s for the upcoming June exam. And police officials are taking the test on the road to military bases and college campuses, with, at best, minimal results.

Only 1,800 people have applied for the test, which used to attract 30,000 during its heights, although that was a time when the economy was not as strong. "They've eliminated the $35 fee, the next stop is lowering standards," said Garvey. "You have to pay people. "

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch described the situation as a "crisis."

The NYPD was unable to fill the last graduating class at the Police Academy in September, falling 361 short of the 1,589 slots allocated. The lack of recruits also cost the city $55 million in possible federal grants because the NYPD was unable to reach a 41,440 head count.

Since then, the ranks of the NYPD has continued to fall - to 39,773.

The figure is guaranteed to plunge because of the thousands of retirement-eligible cops who joined the force 20 years ago.

For example, there are 1,446 officers from the NYPD 1981 class still on the force. And another 2,948 from 1982.