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Cut Cops? No Way, Say Councilmen

On Sunday, January 12, Councilmembers Hiram Monserrate and James E. Davis, both former police officers, joined on the steps of City Hall to denounce recent proposals to make drastic cuts to the size of the city’s police force.
"Telling the Police Department to do more with less is an invitation to rising crime levels," said Councilmember Hiram Monserrate, who spent 12 years as a police officer.  "We must learn from our own history.  It took 15 years for the department to recover from the cuts made in the fiscal crisis of the 70s.  Now more than ever, it should be unquestionable that our city’s public safety is our number one priority."
"New York City cannot afford to lose a single NYPD Officer," said Councilmember James E. Davis. "Alternative solutions do exist, and must be found. A huge investment has been made by the City of New York for each police officer.  I want all possible ideas to be explored in order to prevent layoffs."
Monserrate and Davis noted that the Police Department is already struggling to meet the city’s public safety needs at present manpower levels due to spikes in violent crime, retirements, and increased homeland security needs.
Monserrate cited the department’s new crime fighting initiative, dubbed "Operation Impact," as evidence of the need to keep officers on the beat.  On January 10, Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly joined in Brooklyn’s 77th Precinct, represented by Councilmember Davis, to announce they had begun deploying 800 officers to 19 precincts citywide to combat recent and dramatic crime spikes.
Both precincts in Monserrate’s 21st Council District, the 110th and 115th, received officers under the program after months of rising levels of violence. According to CompStat statistics, during the last week in December the 115th Precinct saw increases of 75% in murder, 41% in rape, 18% in robbery and 11% in burglary over the last year. 
"It’s a fact that criminals feel empowered by a lack of officers," said Monserrate.  "The additional officers on the streets in Corona, Queens, have given residents and families the peace of mind to live their lives. But without a commitment to a permanent police presence, there’s a real fear that a sense of lawlessness could return to the community."
The department is also losing officers to retirement.  As officers who were hired to rebuild the department after drastic cuts in the 70s reach retirement age, the department has lost thousands of experienced personnel.  With a lost of approximately 3,900 officers this year, the department is expected to lose another 10,000 officers over the next three to four years.  
Monserrate noted that Governor Pataki’s State of the State address last week not only stressed a commitment to protect public safety from budget cuts, but also cited New York’s increased security needs after September 11. 
"Residents have put their faith in New York’s uniformed officers to protect them from the frontline in the war on terrorism," he said.  "Taking officers off the streets reveals a hallow commitment to residents’ safety.  The state and federal government must step up to the plate and work with the city to find the resources it needs to protect our public safety."
Last Wednesday, the same day the governor delivered his State of the State address, Mayor Bloomberg announced that budget shortfalls would require the Police Department to find an additional $94 million, or 3%, from the agency’s $3.4 billion budget.  Police officials are expected to announce their specific cuts tomorrow.  However, with over 95% of the departments spending budgeted for personnel, 1,450 officers are expected to be laid off.

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