New York Post
March 22, 2006

HIRE BLITZ TO ADD 'FORCE'

By PHILIP MESSING, STEPHANIE GASKELL and HASANI GITTENS

NYPD putting 1,200 more cops on street.    
NYPD putting 1,200 more cops on street.
Photo: N.Y. Post: Luiz C. Ribeiro
 

The depleted ranks of the NYPD - stretched thin with extra counterterrorist duties - will rise again, Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly announced yesterday.

They plan to add 800 slots for new police officers and hire an extra 400 civilians to free up cops for patrol - meaning a total of 1,200 more cops on the streets.

Those additional jobs will raise the maximum head count for uniformed cops to 37,838. The city currently has 36,450 - nearly 600 under its authorized strength of 37,038 officers and more than 4,000 down from its one-time high in early 2001.

"Over the past four years, even with a reduced number of police officers, we've cut crime by nearly 25 percent - something no one ever imagined possible. Now, we're determined to lock in those gains and drive crime down even further," said Bloomberg, announcing the first significant increase of the force since 1993.

"Deploying an additional 1,200 officers on our city streets is a smart investment that will prevent more crimes, improve our quality of life, and help us continue making the safest big city in America even safer."

Kelly said the department will hire 1,600 cops in July - 1,200 hires that were already planned earlier, and 400 of the 800 newly created spots.

But the July hires will barely make up for the current shortfall and the approximately 250 cops who retire each month.

While acknowledging the ceaseless wave of retirements from the NYPD, Kelly insisted yesterday's announcement "has nothing to do with attrition - this is an expansion of the force."

He said the additional manpower will be used to "bolster the number of cops that are on patrol and reapply resources that had been shifted to anti-terrorism and intelligence gathering duties."

The second wave of 400 "extra" cops will go into the class of January 2007. Half the civilian positions will be brought on in December, and the other half in March 2007, the mayor said.

The cost of adding the 1,200 new employees to the department will be $33.8 million in fiscal year '07, rising in later years as the cops earn seniority.

In fiscal 2010, total costs will exceed $80 million.

Officials also said they plan to ask the Department of Homeland Security for $219 million in federal funding to help with overtime, equipment and a new $81 million counterterrorism program in the Financial District.

Based on London's "Ring of Steel" anti-terror strategy, the "Lower Manhattan Security Initiative" would add surveillance cameras, vehicle barriers, high-tech automatic license-plate readers and a coordination center, all downtown, Kelly said.

The police union took issue with the hiring of more civilians to handle cop duties, and noted that the starting salary for new recruits - $25,100, the lowest it has been in 20 years - could make it hard for the department to reach its projected numbers.

"Replacing 400 police officers with civilians is a Band-Aid approach to getting sorely needed police resources on the street," said Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch.

"Civilianization will not solve the NYPD's recruitment and retention crisis. With nearly 3,000 members quitting or retiring each year, the NYPD recruitment effort is struggling to try and keep up with attrition."

The commissioner acknowledged the pay scale may need to be changed, but said he was "hopeful that the next contract will address that concern."

He added, "We're not lowering our standards in any way . . . to meet these hiring goals."

Bloomberg said he believes the recruiting problems are minor.

"I think this is one of the great jobs in the world, it's the greatest police force in the world," the mayor said. "If people want to come to work here, they're going to have a heck of a career. The salary structure at the moment is less than it used to be up front, but much more than it used to be after you're there for a number of years, and it makes recruiting a problem, but recruiting is always a problem."

Meanwhile, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates charges of misconduct by cops, was fighting for its life at the budget hearing yesterday.

Even as complaints are steadily rising - up 9 percent in 2005 - the mayor wants to cut the CCRB's finances.

The new budget requires a 12 percent reduction in funding, which Chairman Hector Gonzalez said would mandate a 16 percent cut in staff, or 24 positions.

"The situation that confronts our agency is simple - insufficient resources to handle a record number of complaint filings responsibly," Gonzalez said. CCRB officials predicted that with an ever-increasing backlog and fewer staff, many violations might go unpunished because they cannot meet the 18-month statute of limitations.

philip.messing@nypost.com