An effort to trim the NYPD appears to be gaining ground in the City Council, with several members saying that the department should not be immune from budget cuts when other agencies will have to do with less during the city’s fiscal crunch.
During a May 13 teleconference, several Council Members, joined by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, offered a blistering critique of the Mayor’s budgetary priorities and by extension his governing philosophy, with some saying that his progressive rhetoric did not match his actions as the city’s chief executive.
They said the city’s budget needs to better reflect residents’ needs in a post-pandemic environment and that severe cuts planned for the school system and youth initiatives, particularly those that are jobs-related, would by themselves compromise public safety.
Some said that the city’s post-pandemic spending plan would be the most-defining record of Mr. de Blasio’s legacy as Mayor.
“If a budget is a moral document, then it looks like the city is putting us on our way to be morally bankrupt,” Councilwoman Carlina Rivera said during the teleconference. “No agency should get special treatment.”
But the Police Benevolent Association’s president, Patrick J. Lynch, said cutting the department during the coronavirus crisis would prove disastrous for the city and its residents.
“It would be insanely reckless to defund the NYPD in the middle of this crisis. The pandemic has created a social pressure-cooker, thousands of dangerous criminals have been put back on the streets, and shootings are continuing to spike despite the lock-down,” he said in a statement. “Now more than ever, the NYPD needs to focus its full resources on providing basic public safety.”
While not as forcefully and not directly addressing budget numbers, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, testifying before the Council’s Finance and Public Safety Committees the next day, cautioned that policing needed to remain a fiscal priority, particularly given post-pandemic uncertainties with regard to criminal activity.
He noted that crime had increased of late, with robberies, burglaries and car thefts all climbing. Particularly troubling, he said, were increases in shootings, which according to police statistics were up 7.4 percent through May 3.
Mr. Shea also again said that the liberal bail laws that took effect this year had led to more crime. The release of hundreds of inmates from city jails because of the pandemic also played a part, he said.
“How this plays out I don’t think anybody knows,” he said.
A spokesman for the Sergeants Benevolent Association’s president, Ed Mullins, did not respond to a request for comment.
But during the teleconference a day earlier, Public Advocate Williams, said that public safety and public health amounted to more than just policing, a stance, he reiterated, that Mr. de Blasio himself had maintained.
"You cannot leave a $6-billion agency almost all intact and cut another agency almost 40 percent,” he said alluding to planned cuts at the Department of Youth & Community Development. “You can’t put a hiring freeze on the entire City of New York except for the NYPD,” Mr. Williams said.
He contended the Fiscal Year 2021 spending plan, which must be in place July 1, would go a long way in defining Mr. de Blasio’s legacy, adding that should he remain on his current ideological trajectory with regard to law enforcement, that legacy would more resemble those of past Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, rather than the progressive Mr. de Blasio insists he is.
The Council Public Safety Committee’s Chairman, Donovan Richards Jr., said the NYPD’s nearly untouched budget, according to the Mayor’s spending plan, reflected a continued reliance on what he called “over-policing.”
Shelve Police Class?
He said the NYPD’s roughly $5.64-billion preliminary budget could be cropped by $50 million by canceling an upcoming police class and further trimming overtime, which he said should be relatively straightforward given that large events, such as parades, are not likely to return to city streets for several months.
“There’s $50 million right there that we can reinvest right back into the things that are important to our communities: health care, housing and especially our young people,” Councilman Richards said. “You want to cut crime, that’s the way you do it,” he said.
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