By Emily Ngo
NEW YORK — NYPD Commissioner William Bratton Tuesday resisted calls by the City Council to add 1,000 police officers to the force, arguing that there aren't enough funds for new hires and the department can make do with what it has.
"There's not a police chief or police commissioner on earth that's not going tell you that they would like more personnel," Bratton said during a City Council hearing on NYPD spending in de Blasio's $73.9 billion executive budget. "My understanding in terms of discussions with the mayor is that the funding is not there. That's the reality I deal with."
The force will stay at a level of 35,437, Bratton said. He said much can be accomplished by shifting cops' assignments and having more work overtime. He added that police morale is up but could be further boosted by a "fair settlement" of labor contracts.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, citing a "structural deficit," rejected the council's urging to put funds for new NYPD hires in his fiscal year 2015 executive budget on May 8. It marked the first major policy break between the city's executive and legislative branches under de Blasio.
At a preliminary budget hearing in March, Bratton had said he was "very concerned about the low staffing levels," because the NYPD has 6,000 fewer cops than it did in the early 1990s.
Council members, including Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan), seized on his earlier testimony, saying it was part of the reason they requested more cops. Another is that the NYPD is taking on new initiatives that require more personnel such as the Vision Zero plan to reduce traffic deaths.
"We believe based on the additional enforcement needs and visions that are being outlined by the mayor and the administration that we can't continue to tax our current resources," Mark-Viverito told reporters outside yesterday's hearing.
Bratton in his opening remarks to the council noted that overall crime in the city is down 9 percent from last year, with increases in auto theft up 9 percent; assault up 3 percent; and shootings up 7 percent. Crime in the public housing complexes, however, is up 3 percent overall from last year, with a 32 percent increase in shootings, he said.
Public Advocate Letitia James, also pushing for an increase in police officers at the hearing, called assigning 1,900 cops to protect about 400,000 public housing residents "unacceptable."
Bratton said he would send critical-response vehicles now used for counterterrorism efforts to public housing developments with high crime rates.
Bratton, testifying alongside Chief of Department Philip Banks III and others, also said he does not support the decriminalizing of marijuana and is looking into the use of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, as a crime-fighting tool.
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McClatchy-Tribune News Service