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The Mayor's Learning Curve: Maybe More Cops

March 23, 2015

As part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s learning curve, it looks like the NYPD may be getting more cops.

Some estimate the number at close to the 1,000 officers Police Commissioner Bill Bratton had asked for a year ago — which Mayor Bill de Blasio rejected as unnecessary.

But with the number of cops down 15 per cent since its high of over 40,000 at the time of 9/11; with the City Council and Public Advocate supporting an increase; and with a rise, slight as it is, in shootings and homicides — de Blasio may soon alter his position, much as he has altered what many feel was his anti-police tenor during his election campaign and in his first year in office.

Bratton refused to comment on the subject of more cops to this reporter last week, citing the “budgetary process.” But around Police Plaza, people are willing to discuss numbers, albeit off the record. Two top officials in separate interviews suggested the increase may fall somewhere between 500, the number advanced by Public Advocate Letitia James, and Bratton’s 1,000 — and probably closer to the latter.

According to one of those officials, the additional cops would be utilized in two new city-wide task forces now being assembled.

The first is the projected 350-man counter-terrorism task force, known as the CRV, or Critical Response Vehicles, under Deputy Commissioner John Miller. Previously, that task force was staffed by two different officers, taken each day from precincts, Housing PSAs and Transit boroughs, an arrangement that resulted in the task force getting what a department official described as “the worst” officers.

The second city-wide task force is being developed by Chief of Department James O’Neill. At least in theory, it would become a high-level, city-wide flying squad, combining the current eight borough task forces and responding to such events as major demonstrations, and with open career paths to such prestigious assignments as the harbor or mounted units.

O’Neill is also seeking to replace localized borough and precinct details, many of which have been degraded in size, and whose duties and boundaries are confusing and overlap.

All this would allow hundreds more cops to patrol the precincts. While many would respond to radio calls, others would participate in the chimera of “community policing.” A chimera because each police commissioner defines community policing differently.

In New York, “community policing” has been around since the 1990s, begun by former police commissioner Lee Brown. But because of the city’s then sky-high murder rate, it never got off the ground.

When Rudy Giuliani became mayor and appointed Bratton police commissioner in 1994, both ridiculed community policing as “social work.” Now with crime low and tensions high between the department and black New Yorkers, the department line is that this may be the time to revamp it.

HERE AND AFAR. If you think the police have it rough in the United States with an angry and disaffected African-American community whose rage has been stoked through 500 years of slavery, consider Northern Ireland, where hatred between Catholics and Protestants goes back to the battle of Drogheda in 1649 and where violence against the police and each other have been a staple ever since.

This, says Northern Ireland’s Chief Constable George Hamilton, who spoke before the Citizens Crime Commission here last Friday, has resulted in the deaths of 3,700 people, including 300 cops, with 9,000 offices wounded — mostly by the Irish Republican Army and other small and dangerous violent groups.

Hamilton was appointed Chief Constable a year ago in the renamed Royal Ulster Constabulary, now known as the Police Service of Northern Ireland. He says that what is necessary to calm centuries of hostility between Catholics and Protestants, as well as between Catholics and the police, are “building trust and confidence,” “consent from the community,” “mutual respect,” “accountability,” “transparency” [including deaths in police custody] and “a commitment to human rights.”

Sound familiar? And obvious as well. But if it’s obvious for Northern Ireland, why are we having such trouble understanding it here?

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