By Patrick Donachie
Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD have made an effort to increase uniformed and civilian staffing in the department, and though there have been significant increases in uniformed personnel in the last three years, civilian hiring lags behind. This can make it difficult to reduce overtime spending on uniformed officers, according to a new analysis from the city’s Independent Budget Office.
At the end of last year, the NYPD’s uniformed personnel count had increased by 1,400, or about 4.1 percent, from three years prior, to a total of 36,242, the IBO said. In contrast, the department’s full-time civilian personnel count was 14,497 in December 2016, an increase of only 284 positions from three years before. However, budgeted civilian positions stood at 1,600 in this period of time.
“In other words, the hiring of civilian employees has not kept pace with the increase in the department’s budget for civilian staff,” the report read. “While in December 2013, only slightly more than 1 percent of budgeted civilian positions in the NYPD were vacant, by December 2016 the civilian position vacancy rate had increased to nearly 10 percent.”
To cut costs, the de Blasio administration is proposing to eliminate 150 of the vacant civilian positions, totaling $5.1 million by their estimates, although the IBO found that the city would actually spend $97 million less than what is budgeted for NYPD civilian personnel due to the amount of vacancies.
Civilian hires with the NYPD fill a variety of roles far beyond the typical roles uniformed officers play. Civilian hires can be school safety and traffic enforcement agents, administrative aides, 911 operators, legal staff, custodial personnel, IT personnel, and a variety of other professions. Hires in each of these categories slightly increased between 2013 and 2016, besides school safety agents and administrative aides. However, even the increases were often far lower than the original projected number of hires; the city had budgeted for 282 new 911 operator positions, for example, but had only hired 75.
The IBO noted that the NYPD will often assign uniformed officers to positions such as these, that do not necessarily require a uniformed officer to fill, but the IBO also found the NYPD had reduced the number of full-duty officers in these types of positions in recent years, from 731 in 2013 to 381 at the end of last year. This policy has been criticized for contributing to the expansive use of overtime for uniformed officers in the city, which in 2017 is on pace to be about $547 million.
“Critics of the policy contend that hiring additional civilian personnel would enable the department to redeploy police officers performing administrative or support functions to direct law enforcement activities, thereby reducing some of the need for uniformed overtime expenditures,” the report said.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona