New York Times
April 13, 2011


City Postpones Hiring 540 Police Recruits

By AL BAKER

The Bloomberg administration, laboring under continued budget troubles, said Tuesday that it was shelving plans to hire a 540-candidate Police Academy class that was to be sworn in this month, city officials said.

Leading city legislators, including the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, and the head of the city's largest police union said they were alarmed by the decision, warning that any further depletion of police officers' ranks could erode recent gains in crime fighting. The department's head count is now 34,525 officers, about 6,000 fewer officers than at the peak of departmental staffing, in 2000.

Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, called the move — which he referred to as a "cancellation" of this month's class — "a bad decision that will compound the existing staffing problem, compromise public safety and put our police officers at greater risk."

But Stu Loeser, a spokesman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, said the administration was merely shifting the April class to July, when 900 police recruits were already expected to be hired. Mr. Loeser said the city would "do a combined class then." He said everyone eligible to be hired in April would be eligible in July, after the start of the next fiscal year.

Mr. Loeser said that the final July enrollment, whether 1,450 or some other number, would be determined through the city's budget process.

Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr. of Queens, chairman of the Council's public safety committee, said that each month that passed without the swearing in of recruits meant a loss in head count because officers were retiring. The class scheduled to start this month was already postponed; it had been set to begin in January, he said.

"And by the time any cadets hired in July get onto the streets, it will be January 2012," Mr. Vallone said. "And as every month goes by, we lose over a hundred officers to attrition."

Paul J. Browne, the department's chief spokesman, said that "in adjusting to the tough fiscal reality," the force had managed to oversee reductions in murder and overall crime, as measured in seven categories, through the first three and a half months of the year.

"We'll continue to fight crime with what we have," Mr. Browne said.