New York Post
March 20, 2008

Cops' Ranks Plunge as Hire Goes Lower

By FRANKIE EDOZIEN

The number of city cops will plunge to levels not seen since the early 1990s, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly testified yesterday.

Kelly told City Council members that he will follow Mayor Bloomberg's order that agency heads cut their budgets by not hiring 1,000 officers that had been planned for.

The NYPD has had trouble in recent years hiring, and officials point to the current $25,100 starting salary as the chief reason.

"Right now, we have to do something to reduce our budget, and the 1,000-officer reduction seemed practical because we can't hire," Kelly said.

"We had no recruitment problems until June of '05 when the arbitrator lowered the starting salary . . . It's been very difficult to recruit these past 21/2 years with a $25,100 salary in this most expensive city in North America."

An arbitrator is expected to come up with new salary scales in the coming months.

Officials at the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association disputed Kelly's assertions that starting salary was the problem and said overall cop salaries are the issue across the board.

They said focus groups show that salaries in general are a problem.

"The NYPD has turned its inability to maintain staffing levels into budgetary savings at a time when local community precinct houses are screaming for more police officers," said Pat Lynch, the PBA president.

He said Kelly's plan to reduce cops by 1,000 will "strain to the breaking point the work force that is already burdened by fighting crime and terrorism."

But Kelly told lawmakers that the reduction would not affect current operations.

Crime is down to record levels, with murders down to 496 in 2007 — 17 percent fewer than the year before.

By July, cops would number 36,838. Right now, there are about 35,800. In 1992, there were 35,802 cops.

But lawmakers, who were full of praise for Kelly for the city's continually dropping crime levels, were skeptical that fewer boots on the ground could sustain the low crime levels.

"Your force is so over-extended that we will not be able to continue to make the gains that we have seen in the past. I believe that we are about at that point now," Public Safety Committee chair Peter Vallone Jr. said.

Councilmember Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens) pointed out that the city had more cops in 2001 than now.

"During the worst crisis that this city ever faced we had 38,630 police officers and now we have approximately 35,548, somewhere around that. I don't think that makes much sense."

Monserrate, a retired cop, added, "I know if there was a Mayor Kelly right now, we would not be facing this issue."

Kelly said after the hearing that cops would continue working to keep streets safe no mater what the numbers are.

"The Safe Street/Safe City head-count was 38,310, I believe, and the head-count that we are shooting for now is 36,838, so the numbers speak for themselves but a number of efficiencies have been brought to bear since that time."

frankie.edozien@nypost.com