New York’s first expansion of its police force in two decades will let officers become more familiar with the communities they serve, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
“We are taking policing to the next level in this city, both in terms of deepening our safety and creating a true partnership between police and community,” de Blasio said Thursday at a news briefing in upper Manhattan with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.
The plan calls for 1,000 veteran police officers to walk beats in some of the most crime-ridden neighborhoods. About 300 others will be permanently assigned to a rapid-deployment force as a boost to the 1,000-officer counterintelligence division. An additional 400 cops on desk duty will be freed to work patrols, their positions filled by civilians, de Blasio said.
The program was announced at a YMHA in the 34th precinct, which covers the diverse residential neighborhood of Washington Heights. There, and in other neighborhoods, an eight-hour day shift will be staffed by 35 officers instead of the current 27, allowing some officers to go “off radio” and spend two hours interacting with people in churches, grocery stores and their apartment building lobbies, said Stephen Davis, the department’s chief spokesman.
“Profound reforms are under way,” the mayor told a meeting of ministers at police headquarters Tuesday. They include “the retraining of our entire force to emphasize cooperation and involvement with the community, to show approaches for de-escalating in any confrontation between an individual and a member of this force.”
The mayor this week reversed his opposition to new hiring when he presented a budget for next fiscal year that included $170 million to add almost 1,300 to the 35,000-officer force. The decision came after almost six months in which homicides increased compared with record lows in the same period last year, even as total crime decreased 6.6 percent.
The mayor cited statistics that show shootings fell last week compared with a year ago.
“Crime is going down, shootings down, robberies down, assaults down,” he said.
De Blasio, a Democrat who assumed office in 2014, spent much of his first year trying to balance public anger about law-enforcement violence with union concerns that he was unsympathetic to the difficulties of policing.
The turmoil escalated when citywide protests erupted over a grand jury’s decision in December not to indict an officer in the death of an unarmed black man during an arrest. Later that month, two officers were killed in an ambush while sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn.
While he resisted spending more on police when crime was at an all-time low, de Blasio faced opposition from the City Council, Bratton and the unions. Ultimately, Bratton persuaded the mayor that he could combine his public-safety goals with his vision of a department in harmony with the communities it serves, the mayor said Tuesday.
De Blasio praised Bratton, who is in his second stint as commissioner, for getting “the ball rolling” on reducing crime in the biggest U.S. city.
Bratton said the department will benefit this year from an unprecedented upgrade of technology. CompStat, a computerized crime-mapping system, will be transformed from a weekly report on paper to a database accessible to all patrol officers equipped with specially designed mobile phones and tablets.
“We will take it into the 21st century. It will be computerized, it will be paperless it will be instant; up to the hour,” Bratton said.
The NYPD reached a peak of about 40,800 officers in 2000, after an expansion that began in 1993, when the department totaled about 34,600 officers and the city reported 1,927 homicides. Added manpower, public-safety strategies and societal changes combined to reduce overall crime and the department reduced its headcount. By 2014, crime had fallen 75 percent since 1993; with murders at a record low of 333.
The mayor’s plan calls for placing a cap on overtime costs, which reached a record $683 million last year, and saving money by hiring civilians to do work now done by higher-paid officers with more generous benefits.