Despite calls from the City Council and municipal unions to fill Police Department desk jobs with civilians, a process known as “civilianization,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said in a budget hearing at City Hall Thursday morning that full-time civilian positions would be cut from 14,431 to 14,107 this year.
According to Kelly’s testimony, which he read to the Council Public Safety Committee, the City’s continued hiring freeze combined with state budget cuts are forcing the Police Department (NYPD) to cut back on civilianization.
But Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. of Astoria, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said at the hearing that union workers are cheaper to employ than police officers.
Currently, there are 518 NYPD officers performing non-enforcement jobs who are classified as “full-duty,” meaning they are capable of assuming enforcement duties immediately, according to the City Council.
Kelly said at the hearing that cutting back on civilianization would equate to less police officers patrolling the streets, as more would be needed to perform administrative duties.
“It certainly has the potential for impacting adversely upon Department results,” Kelly said.
“So if we’re hiring to replace an attrition rate but we’re losing civilians,” Vallone asked, referring to 1,600 new officers who graduated the Police Academy in January, “then police officers will have to come off the streets to replace those civilians, next year we can expect to see less police on the streets?
“Yes,” Kelly said.
Vallone then asked if those results would affect the NYPD’s overtime budget, which is set for $604 million this year, up from $420 in 2011, to which Kelly replied, “partly, yes.”
After the hearing, Vallone said he’s been advocating for civilianization for the last 10 years, and although Kelly says he supports the method, it’s still being cut.
As for Kelly’s explanation for the cuts, Vallone said, “he works for the administration that is responsible for the hiring freeze, they make exceptions all the time, they should absolutely make a public safety exception.”
In a phone interview later on Thursday, Eddie Rodriguez, president of the city’s largest municipal union DC37 Local 1549, said union workers are cheaper because they earn roughly $30,000 a year, compared to the $80,000 cops make after their first five years of service.
“Then there will be more crime, more murder, more rape. That’s nice,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t see why they don’t hire more civilians and put cops on the street.”
When asked about the hiring freeze and budget cuts, he said Kelly is making up excuses for cutting civilians off the NYPD payroll, and suggested the city use the more than $500 million recovered from the CityTime scandal to hire new staff.
“I think it’s a disgrace,” Rodriguez said. “There should be no budget cut at all for civilians.”