NEW YORK – The New York City Council is poised to renew its call to hire 1,000 more officers for the police department, potentially setting up a repeat clash with Mayor Bill de Blasio about the headcount of the nation's largest police force.
The council will release its budget presentation on Tuesday and will include funding to hire the additional officers, council staffers told The Associated Press on Sunday. The council made the same proposal a year ago but it was rejected by de Blasio and not included in the final budget for fiscal year 2015, which began July 1.
"In order for NYPD to continue to keep New Yorkers safe while also implementing new reforms and initiatives we need to increase the overall headcount of the department," City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement Sunday night. "The Council's plan to increase headcount while also including cost control measures is fiscally responsible and will go a long way toward ensuring public safety and better community relations."
The council, which is composed of 48 Democrats and just 3 Republicans, has largely marched in lockstep with de Blasio, a Democrat, as he has acted to expand the role of city government in people's lives, particularly the less fortunate. But the debate over hiring the additional officers a year ago was a rare moment of disagreement as de Blasio turned down the request, citing record low crime numbers and suggesting that the money would be better spent elsewhere.
The issue has come under increased scrutiny this year, in the wake of de Blasio's rift with the police union leaders and many rank-and-file cops.
Protests swept the city's streets in December after a grand jury declined to indict a white police officer for placing Eric Garner, who was black, in a fatal chokehold. And after two police officers were slain weeks later by a gunman who cited Garner's death on social media, many officers rebelled against de Blasio, repeatedly turning their backs to him -- including at the officers' funerals -- and taking part in a work slowdown.
The fissure has largely closed, but even City Hall insiders acknowledge that some tension remains. Some police union leaders believe the additional manpower would help keep the city streets safe while reducing some of the burden on current officers.
Police Commissioner William Bratton has also, at times, signaled support for the effort to hire more officers for the department, which now has a headcount of about 34,500, about 6,000 fewer than at its peak in 2001. De Blasio has not committed to hiring more officers but has been more receptive to the proposal in his public remarks than he was a year ago.
The council's budget office projected that hiring two new classes of officers, to total 1,000, would cost nearly $69 million in the upcoming fiscal year. But the council believes that the cost will be offset by the corresponding reduction in overtime; Bratton last month said that overtime costs for the fiscal year were estimated to reach $672 million, an increase of $89 million from the year before.
Mark-Viverito, who has shown a greater willingness to move beyond de Blasio on some policy decisions, also has said that the additional officers could increase outreach in certain neighborhoods -- namely in minority communities that have at times distrusted the NYPD -- and to stem some increases in crime. Murders are up nearly 12 percent from this time a year ago, and shootings have also increased, according to NYPD crime statistics.
De Blasio will present his executive budget in early May. A budget deal must be brokered by the end of June.