By John Marzulli
The Daily News (New York)
March 28, 2001
(New York, NY) - Nearly 23% of the Police Academy class is failing to make the grade in academics or gym forcing the Police Department to hold them out of crucial field training, the Daily News has learned. Of the 1,181 probationary cops in the class, 270 were held back March 9 from the month-long training now underway in city, housing and transit commands throughout the city.
"If they're even close to the point of not passing, I hold them back," said James O'Keefe, the NYPD's director of training. "I don't want to make a mistake and give them a gun and shield."
Probationary cops must have a minimum grade of 70 in each of four disciplines law, behavioral science, police science and gym and maintain an overall grade of 75.
If they don't meet those standards, they are held out of on-the-job field training where they can make arrests, direct traffic and write summonses under the supervision of academy instructors.
Of the 1,339 rookies sworn in last September, 158 about 11% have dropped out. On average, about 9% to 12% of each Police Academy class fails to graduate, according to O'Keefe.
The underachieving rookies are the latest bad news for the NYPD's recruitment efforts. This month, police officials conceded that the department lost out on $55 million in federal funds because too few recruits are being hired.
Though about $20 million has been spent on recruiting drives since 1999, the last few campaigns have produced far fewer applicants than previous years'.
To drum up interest, Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik waived the 60 college-credit requirement for school safety and traffic agents to boost the number of test takers for the written exam in October. He also lowered the age for applicants from 22 to 21 and extended the filing deadline twice.
Some criminal justice experts warned that the NYPD might be lowering standards to meet its recruiting demands.
John Driscoll, president of the Captains Endowment Association, said the number of holdovers backed those concerns.
"They can spin it any way they want, but it looks to me like we have a problem," he said. "There's a lot of pressure on to make classes."
Driscoll also pointed out that the failure rate for this class' first quarterly exam was higher than in previous years.
O'Keefe, who was hired by the NYPD in 1995, couldn't say whether this group of holdovers was larger than in previous classes. But he strongly denied there is a problem with the current crop of recruits.
He confidently predicted that the group of 270, which also includes rookies who are injured or have unspecified medical conditions, does not represent the number of rookies who will not graduate in May.
"Every day they are being tutored in whatever they are deficient in," he said.
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Rookie cops failing: 23% can't pass class, gym tests, N.Y.