By Anthony M. Destefano
NEW YORK — NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said city officers are working out of ghastly precinct buildings and that it would cost an astronomical amount of money to fix them.
Testifying for the first time at a City Council budget hearing, Bratton agreed with Councilman James Vacca (D-Bronx), who said that station houses were "deplorable."
"They have been neglected too long and it is just inappropriate to ask professional people to work in those houses. You send a terrible message to the public that you just don't care," Vacca said.
Speaking to reporters later, Bratton used equally strong words to describe the conditions of many police precincts.
"Police stations in the city are deplorable, they are a disgrace, there is no getting around it," Bratton said. "I just came from a city that spent a billion and a half dollars remodeling every one of their facilities and they are first-class superior facilities that reflect the professionalism of that department."
Bratton was chief of police in Los Angeles from 2002 to 2009 and opened 22 new facilities there in that time. He said that a review of the department is underway to determine what it would cost to modernize station houses. Bratton said he thought the cost would be "significant." Some of the precinct houses date to the 19th century, such as the 5th Precinct in Chinatown, which was dedicated in 1881.
Bratton called his first session with the council "congenial" and hoped it would be a harbinger of future relations. He appeared to take an indirect swipe at his predecessor Ray Kelly when he characterized recent relations between the NYPD and the council as strained.
"I think it is clear that this council, this mayor, this police department, want to work together and we intend to," Bratton told reporters. "The fact [that] the meeting this morning was conducted the way it was, was good news for the city. A lot of the contentiousness of the last couple of years that was so divisive, we are in a position to deal with that and heal that."
During the budget hearing, Bratton didn't announce any new initiatives but said that the NYPD will remain at a funded peak head count of 35,437 in fiscal 2015 and beyond. However, because of retirements of officers during the 1990s in the Dinkins administration, Bratton believed 2,100 officers would retire this fiscal year and 1,300 in fiscal 2015.
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McClatchy-Tribune News Service