NYPD Blues

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has done a decent job of protecting vital city services while looking for places to cut spending in light of an enormous budget deficit. He and the City Council need to be careful that cuts to the Police Department do not result in a respite for those who would disrupt public safety.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly recently told the City Council that he will have to lay off nearly 400 civilian workers who perform administrative duties in the department. They may have to be replaced by uniformed officers beginning with the new fiscal year starting July 1.

The layoffs would help save $20 million, but would require trained officers—the best cops on the planet—to perform such duties as filing reports and typing documents. Worthy and necessary work, to be sure. But not the sort of work we want our cops performing.

It hardly bears noting that the NYPD has been in the forefront of making New York the world’s safest big city over the last 15 years. But it is worth remembering that the NYPD’s victories in the war on crime mustn’t be taken for granted. The number of full-time cops has shrunk from slightly more than 40,000 in 2001 to just over 35,000 today. That is a potentially dangerous decrease.

True, if anybody can do more with less, it’s the NYPD. But only a fool would expect continued victories in the face of dramatic decreases in head count. Neither Mayor Bloomberg nor Commissioner Kelly is a fool. Quite the opposite.

Nevertheless, the trend is disturbing. When good times return, the NYPD budget should be made whole again, and the drop in troop strength should be brought to an immediate halt.