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A new class of NYPD recruits scheduled to enter the Police Academy this month seems caught in a fall breeze, blowing in and out of the budget picture.
On Oct. 6, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea told a NY1 interviewer that the class's fate remained undetermined, while warning of "significant attrition" among officers.
Indeed there is. Through the end of September, 2,070 cops filed for retirement—960 more than left over the first nine months of 2019. Normally the department hires enough new officers to replace those lost to attrition, but it shelved a March class as one consequence of the coronavirus's impact, and canceled one in July because of cuts made to its spending plan under the final budget deal between Mayor de Blasio and the City Council.
No decision was made then about the October class, which bothered some elected officials and activists who believed that at a time when other agencies were tightening their belts, the NYPD should not be exempt.
Those officials have been notably silent about the more-than $1 billion additional the city is expected to spend adding Teachers to cope with the need for more staff once the Department of Education cut back its plans for in-person education, according to the Independent Budget Office.
But while the NYPD may not be enjoying Most Favored Nation status in parts of City Hall these days, a case can be made that it, too, has greater personnel needs because of changing circumstances, and approving that class would not come close to matching the department's headcount during the fiscal year that concluded June 30.
Even as cops picked up the pace in making gun arrests last month, seizing more than in any September in the previous 25 years after a sharp drop-off earlier this year, homicides and shootings continued their upward climb. Murders were up 40 percent compared to the first three quarters of last year. Shootings have risen 91 percent from the same period in 2019.
Perhaps that's why, after this newspaper's Richard Khavkine, based on information from sources within the NYPD, reported online Oct. 7 that the class would in fact be canceled, the department insisted that no final decision had been made. A department spokeswoman said it was talking to mayoral officials about "several variables" that could get the class enrolled.
One may be that departures from the force continued in recent months to be twice and sometimes three times as many as left a year earlier. Considering that Police Officers are working under a contract that expired more than 38 months ago and are awaiting a new deal from an arbitration proceeding that hasn't been rescheduled since it was postponed by the pandemic this spring, the indication is that many officers decided the reasons for leaving the force outweighed the pull of hanging around to stay eligible for the back pay that will ultimately figure into the award.
As passions within city government have cooled along with the weather since the "Defund the NYPD" movement had traction early this summer, decision-makers may realize that while a shortage of cops may not be felt as sharply this winter, an October class would be graduating from the academy in early spring—a point when putting new officers on the streets could give them needed experience and the department vital reinforcements in advance of next summer.