WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
The controversy over the cost of NYPD overtime related to the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protest continues to surface, but there are divergent opinions about the issue in the New York City Council, which oversees the city budget.
As of early October, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly publicly put the price tag for police overtime at $2 million, but Public Safety chair Councilman Peter Vallone said that number has since ballooned to $5 million.
Vallone believes the additional overtime comes at time when the police department has 7,000 fewer officers than it did a decade ago. The Queens councilman said the additional officers needed to secure the protest area and financial district comes at the expense of crime fighting in the outer boroughs.
"This is costing us, not just in money," Vallone said. "It is costing us over $5 million dollars now and that may cost us the next police class, but it is also costing us in our safety."
Vallone alluded to last Friday’s shooting of a mother of 12 who was killed in Brownsville as she shielded children from gang related gunfire.
"You've heard high ranking police officers quoted as saying we don't have the cops we need in areas like Brownsville because they are all down here forced to babysit at a park," Vallone said.
For Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Councilman Brad Lander from Brooklyn the cost of police overtime is worth it. He said the Occupy Wall Street movement is keeping pressure on Albany to not let the state's millionaire's tax lapse as scheduled at the end of December.
"So I would rather have a set of people pointing out growing income equality, pointing out that our tax system has gotten more regressive and saying we must maintain that millionaire's tax," Lander said.
Lander said the tax brings the state $5 billion dollars a year — $2 billion of which comes to the city.
Last year, the NYPD spent more than a half billion dollars in overtime.
The council’s concern over the issue comes as city agencies are scrambling to find ways to cut 2 percent of their current fiscal year budget and six percent in the next fiscal year. Those rollbacks are expected to help the city save $2 billion dollars overall.
In the last annual budget process, the city had to find ways to make up for both state and federal cuts in city aid. With the state and federal government facing their own economic problems, that trend is expected to continue.