The New York Times

February 25, 2003

More Than Gas Masks Needed for Police, Mrs. Clinton Says


CAongress has appropriated $4 million to help the New York Police Department pay for protective equipment, including gas masks, but Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and union and police officials said yesterday that the police needed several hundred million dollars more to help prepare for and respond to a possible terrorist attack.

At a news conference held to announce the new funds, Mrs. Clinton said that she had secured the money in the appropriations bill approved Feb. 13 and that it would allow the department to buy thousands of gas masks. But the senator, along with the heads of the unions representing police officers and sergeants, said the city and the Police Department needed $900 million more. The department is seeking $261 million.

"We need more help from the federal government for the additional burdens that are being imposed on the N.Y.P.D., the burdens that require the constant vigilance that this city is known for," Mrs. Clinton said outside the 13th Precinct station house near Gramercy Park. "But we're not getting the help we need, and it is a grave concern throughout the city and at every level of government."

Mrs. Clinton said that the recent two-week terrorism alert had been costly, with the department spending more than $1 million in just four days on overtime and other costs. And, she said, as the size of the force continues to shrink because of the city's bleak financial outlook, its needs for training and equipment to fight terrorism continue to grow.

"We do everything we can through our defense budget to take care of our men and women in the military," she said. "This war is a two-front war. It's now here at home. And therefore we should be spending the dollars from the federal government to make sure that we're safe here at home, and they should go to police and fire and first responders."

Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, which represents 23,900 police officers, said he was grateful for the money and the protection it would provide, but noted that it was only a start. "We need the money to help train our members how to properly use this equipment," he said. "We need to get more equipment to protect ourselves to help us protect you."

Ed Mullins, the president of the union that represents police sergeants, also called for more money and took a starker view: "To continue to go about putting cops on the street without preparing them for a disaster is no different than sending canaries into a coal mine."

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has aggressively lobbied Washington for additional money to support the department's counterterrorism efforts, which have led to the reassignment of nearly 1,000 officers from normal policing duties. He has contended that by protecting New York's landmarks and the financial district, they are protecting the United States.

The department has already issued more than 1,200 gas masks to officers in elite units, and its newest class of 2,400 recruits, who have already been trained to use the masks, will receive them shortly, officials said. The $4 million could buy about 15,000 masks, but officials said the department might buy masks with other funds and use the latest money for other protective gear.