New York Post
June 5, 2007

Hire & Lower As Top Cops Sing the Blues

By JAMIE SCHRAM

    NYPD in crisis  
  RAY KELLY
Has warned of crisis.
 
  z  

The NYPD will fall more than 2,000 recruits short of the target for its next academy class, and several precincts have already suffered substantial drops in manpower, police brass testified yesterday.

At a City Council hearing, Rafael Pineiro, the department's chief of personnel, said he anticipated hiring between 700 and 800 recruits for the Police Academy class on July 9. The department had set a hiring goal of more than 3,000 cops for that class.

He also noted that there are just under 36,000 officers on the force, a decrease of 5,000 from October 2000, when the department reached a high of nearly 41,000 officers.

"We have serious problems," Pineiro said, adding that the difficulty in attracting new recruits boils down to the low starting salary of $25,100.

The NYPD is trying to manage an expected rise in attrition rates in 2010, as cops hired as part of the Safe Street, Safe City program 20 years earlier become eligible for retirement.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has also blamed the low starting salary for a looming manpower crisis.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, also testified at the hearing and said the situation has reached a "crisis point."

"Specifically, the NYPD is unable to recruit and retain enough qualified candidates to staff the precincts and commands in the city at a level that is safe," Lynch said.

As examples, Lynch pointed to the considerable drop in patrols and staffing rates in the 111th Precinct in Bayside, Queens, and at the 28th Precinct in Harlem.

At the 111th, which covers 9.4 square miles and has 116,000 residents, Lynch said it's "simply not enough" to have two or three patrol cars to cover such a large area.

In the 28th, Lynch said, there are currently 188 officers compared with 252 in 2000.

Critics say the police union is itself responsible for the low starting pay, accusing it of selling out its own recruits' salary in order to get raises for existing members. Union leadership denies the charge.

Peter Vallone Jr., chairman of the council's Public Safety Committee, echoed Lynch's view on the department's staffing troubles, saying, "It is a crisis waiting to happen."

The meeting grew testy when Vallone asked NYPD Deputy Chief John Gerrish, "Do you know of any other police force in any major city since 9/11 that has decided that the best strategy would be to downsize?"

Stunned, Gerrish responded, "I can't answer that question."

Then Vallone took aim at Pineiro, noting that in December 2004, in connection with arbitration proceedings, Pineiro testified that the NYPD did not have a recruiting problem.

But Pineiro fired back with statistics showing that there was a "precipitous drop" in the number of people applying for the NYPD exam after the contract introducing the $21,500 starting pay was announced in 2005.

For example, Pineiro said, there were 35,039 applicants in October 2004, 28,737 applicants in February 2005 and 29,027 applicants in June 2005.

When the contract was announced on June 27, 2005, there were just 21,124 applicants in October that year, 23,275 applicants in February 2006 and 21,000 in June 2006.

jamie.schram@nypost.com