By Rebecca Henely
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and the union DC 37 Local 1549, which represents the city’s clerical and administrative employees, called upon the New York Police Department last week to turn over 500 desk job positions to civilians.
Vallone, chairman of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, said putting uniformed officers back on the street would be the most effective way to make up for the dwindling police force numbers.
“These people joined the force to serve and protect,” Vallone said, “not sort and direct phone calls.”
DC 37 said the current headcount of the NYPD is 34,400 citywide, a 20-year low for the department. The union said it believed by turning some of the desk jobs held by uniformed officers over to civilians, it could help both the department’s budget and staffing problems.
The union said the civilians would cost $10 million in civilian salaries, but could save the force $16.5 million annually and could reduce overtime spending, citing information from the city Independent Budget Office.
“We have documented as many as 3,500 civilian positions that are being occupied by uniformed officers,” Rodriguez said.
Vallone said he is not advocating for officers who are on modified duty or are injured, pregnant or have a skill set that is needed for a specific desk job to return to the field. But he said with 3,000 officers assigned to desk jobs, 500 could easily be given to civilians.
“It makes sense at every level,” Vallone said.
The councilman said he has been advocating for the “civilianization” of desk jobs since he became chairman of the committee 10 years ago. He said while Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has admitted that the 500 officers could go back out into the field, it has not happened.
Vallone said the 114th Precinct, which covers his Council district, has not had a new officer in more than a year despite losing officers to attrition or patrol of the Occupy Wall Street protests in Manhattan.
He cited recent crimes in the precinct — such as the slaying of Astoria Houses resident Tysheen Davis in March and the shooting of Mawagad Elbahi, the wife of Sudanese Consul General Mohamed Elbahi, last week near Long Island City High School — as reasons why the NYPD cannot delay in putting more officers back out on the street.
“Criminals have realized the same thing law-abiding citizens have realized,” Vallone said. “There are no more cops on the beat or on their bikes in the outer boroughs.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.