Bill Bratton Argues Extra NYPD Overtime Makes Up for Lower Headcount

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty)

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty)

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton–who had previously complained that the NYPD’s headcount was too low–today argued that millions of dollars of department overtime have helped to neutralize the blow.

“There’s an overtime budget that effectively gives you the equivalent officers on a daily basis,” said Mr. Bratton, speaking to reporters this afternoon after a muster with recruits. “So while the department is headcount down by 6,000, the overtime that we have available to use effectively allows us to police as if we had the larger department.”

Back in June, before his hiring, Mr. Bratton said he thought the NYPD’s under-35,000-person force was “too small,” and blamed the depleted ranks for the department’s excessive use of stop-and-frisk, according to Capital New York. He quickly changed his tune after his hiring, however, telling reporters after his appointment that he was “comfortable” with the current headcount.

Back when former Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in 2002, the force was more than 40,000.

Today, Mr. Bratton said he’d favor more cops “but you work with what you have.”

“There’s not a police chief in America that would not tell you that they’d like more cops,” he said. “I’d always like more cops. But you work with what you have. We have a very large department. We also have–fortunately, the mayor has prioritize in this budget–a good budget to work with in overtime similar to what’s gone on in the last 12 years to make up for the loss of those 6,000 officers.”

The NYPD paid out $635 million in overtime during fiscal year 2013, almost twice as much as the $338 million spent in fiscal 2001, according to the mayor’s management report. Some have made the case that overtime is cheaper because of savings in pensions and healthcare costs.

Mayor Bill Blasio was also at today’s event and concurred with Mr. Bratton–but left open the door to changes when he presents the executive budget in May.

“I think he said it beautifully,” the mayor said of Mr. Bratton. “I want to amplify what the commissioner said: I think this department is doing an extraordinary job with the resources it has, obviously continuing to keep crime low. And I have felt for a long time that when you see that level of effectiveness and you see it on such a sustained basis, it tells us something about the fact that we’re at a good and capable size right now.”

“Again, we’ll continue looking always as things develop,” he added. “Ad we’ll have more to say around the time of the executive budget.”