18 April 2012    

 

A call to put 500 more NYPD officers back on the streets

ALISON BOWEN
NEW YORK

    A city Councilman is calling for 500 able-bodied cops to get back out on to foot patrols instead of sitting on desk duty.
 

Mario Tama

A city Councilman is calling for 500 able-bodied cops to get back out on to foot patrols instead of sitting on desk duty.

Hundreds of New York City officers are sitting at desks filling out paperwork when they could be out patrolling the streets of the city.

Queens Councilman Peter Vallone, chair of the City Council's Public Safety Committee, wants to move 500 cops away from desk duty — and out on to the streets. At City Hall tomorrow, Vallone will propose giving these jobs to civilians instead.

Officers on desk duty can be cops who have been injured, such as someone thrown down steps during an arrest, or older cops, a Patrolmen's Benevolent Association spokesman said. Healthy officers also, however, fill those desk jobs as well.

Those positions, Vallone said, could be filled by civilians who can do the same tasks.

"The quickest way to get more cops on the street is to get them out from behind the desk," Vallone told Metro.

Vallone said several unions agree with him, including Local 1549, filled with clerical and administrative workers, and DC 37, a public employees' union. The civilian jobs at the NYPD might be staffed by their members.

The call comes at a time when New York City is suffering from a 20-year low count of officers. With 34,400 officers on the street right now, that's about 6,000 fewer than a decade ago, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has said.

And crime is inching up. According to NYPD statistics, since last year, robberies are up seven percent, and grand larcenies are up 10 percent, although murders are down 10 percent. Vallone noted that seven officers have been shot in four months, including Peter Figoski, killed in the line of duty in December.

"If you get 500 cops on the street, that's one or two per square mile in New York City, and that would make a big difference," Vallone said.

Suggestion may save money

The NYC Independent Budget Office estimates that replacing 500 cops with civilian clerks would have saved as much as $16.5 million for fiscal year 2012, Vallone said.

According to Vallone's office, about 951 officers' positions could be filled by civilians. Out of those positions, 518 are filled by full-duty officers, and the rest are filled by officers on light or modified duty, a Vallone spokeswoman said.

He proposes paying civilians about $10 million for their salaries – less than what officers would make -- which he said would pale in comparison for what's spent on police overtime, budgeted for $418 million for fiscal year 2013.

But some police reject idea

Not all are on board with the Councilman's suggestion. PBA president Patrick Lynch called the idea a "Band-Aid approach to replacing the 7,000 officers that the NYPD has lost since 2001."

Lynch said the only solution is to hire more actual police officers, instead of civilian fill-ins.

"We are in dire need of thousands of more police officers on our streets, and the only way to accomplish that goal is to commit funds to hiring more police officers," Lynch said.