Wall Street Journal
April 13, 2011


Mayor Delays a Cop Class to Save Money

By MICHAEL HOWARD SAUL

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has delayed a class of 540 police cadets that was scheduled to start this month, leading the City Council and the police union to accuse the administration of jeopardizing public safety.

The mayor's press secretary, Stu Loeser, on Tuesday said the administration now plans to "switch the April class to July" and "do a combined class." As recently as last month, the NYPD planned to hire 900 police recruits in July, in addition to the 540 in April; Mr. Loeser declined repeated requests to specify the expected size of the so-called combined class.

Without these 540 recruits, the NYPD's headcount falls to 34,548. The NYPD is authorized to hire 35,088.

[NYPOLICE]Speaker Christine Quinn, along with the chairmen of the council's public safety and finance committees, sent a letter lambasting the mayor for both delaying the class and for failing to consult the council or the public.

"To make this critical funding decision without any discussion is simply a slap in the face, and shows tremendous disrespect," they wrote. "We urge you to reconsider this rash and misguided decision."

Ms. Quinn said in an interview that council lawyers will be researching whether it's possible to block the mayor from unilaterally delaying the class.

"The process was wrong and the decision was wrong, and it was disrespectful of an institution that has stood up nine times in a row and made budget cuts," Ms. Quinn said. "It's simply something we're not going to take lying down."

Council Member Peter Vallone, chairman of the council's Public Safety Committee, said it's impossible to rebuild the city's economy without safe streets. "We cannot cut our first responders at all as we sit in the cross hairs of the terrorists," he said.

Murder, rape, robbery and felony assault were higher in 2010 compared with 2009, but overall crime was down last year. So far this year, murder has fallen 19% and overall crime has dropped 3% compared with the same period a year ago.

"The last three years were the three safest in New York City's history, and crime is down again this year," Mr. Loeser said.

According to the Independent Budget Office's analysis of the mayor's preliminary budget proposal, the NYPD's staffing is slated to decline through attrition to 34,413 by June 30, 2012, marking the smallest-size force since 1992.

The drop in unformed police staffing is exacerbated, according to the IBO, by a concurrent decrease in NYPD civilian staffing.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said the NYPD is "already at dangerously low staffing levels, with 6,000 fewer police officers on our streets than in 2001."

He added: "Canceling the April class of 540 police officers is a bad decision that will compound the existing staffing problem, compromise public safety and put our police officers at greater risk."

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said: "We'll continue to fight crime with what we have."

In response to concern that potential recruits for the April class might not be eligible for the July class because their test results expire in June, Mr. Loeser said the commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services has the authority to issue an extension and she "will do so in this case."

According to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's testimony to the council on March 15, the NYPD planned to move forward with 540 recruits this month, 900 in July, 630 in January 2012 and 1,310 in July 2012.

Mr. Vallone called the administration's promise to fold the April class into the July class a "big if" and, even if that happens, he pointed out that the April class has already been delayed three months. "By the time any cadets hired in July get onto the streets it will be January 2012, and as every month goes by we lose over 100 officers to attrition," he said.

—Sean Gardiner and Tamer El-Ghobashy contributed to this article.

Write to Michael Howard Saul at michael.saul@wsj.com