The City Council and DC 37, the city's biggest public union, is pushing to add 500 civilian employees to the ranks of the NYPD so that same number of active duty police officers can come out from behind desks and get back out on patrol.
The call for increased civilian support comes at a time when the NYPD has just 34,700 officers, down several thousand from 2001. At the same time, for several years, the department has seen its overtime spending go over budget — by several hundreds of millions of dollars — annually.
City Council Public Safety Chair Peter Vallone said there are thousands of NYPD officers who are currently doing the kind of clerical work that could be more economically performed by civil service civilians. It would have the added benefit of increasing the number of officers on patrol. "Everyone knows if you are out of Manhattan you have not seen a beat or bike cop in ages. They don't exist," Vallone told supporters of the move at a City Hall rally.
Vallone said officers belong out on the street. "These officers joined the police force to serve and protect not to sort and direct phone calls."
The City Council has put in a request to the Mayor's Office to include the measure in his final budget due June 30.
In the past Vallone, a Queens Democrat, has linked a rise in police response times to the NYPD’s "lowest patrol strength in 20 years."
"These officers joined the police force to serve and protect, not to sort and direct phone calls," Vallone said.
Queens Republican Councilman Dan Halloran agrees, saying the city wastes the investment in training police officers who end up behind a desk. "Whether it's the telephone switchboard operator, whether it's the [Police Administrative Aids] who work in the complaint room, all of these people are doing things that do not require a gun and a badge."
Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said the department would welcome the additional civilian support.
He could not confirm that there were thousands of police officers currently working in clerical functions. "The problem is that in the several rounds of budget cuts the civilian job titles get cut because no one wants to loose officers," Brown said.
The push for using civilians to free up police officers was first started back during the Lindsay administration. Currently there are 16,000 civilian workers at the NYPD.
In 2004 a labor arbitrator ordered the Bloomberg administration to convert 3,500 jobs held by police officers to civil service slots that could be held by civilians. The city appealed the running twice only to see a judge uphold the arbitrator’s decision. Mark LaVorgna, a spokesman for the mayor, said the administration implemented those hires but subsequent rounds of budget cuts in the years since have taken a toll.
The city's Independent budget office says replacing 500 cops by attrition would save $16.5 million, and would cut down on overtime.