By Katie Honan 

Stemming New York's rise in violent crime and helping the city recover from the Covid-19 pandemic will require more police officers and overtime spending, New York Police Department Commissioner Dermot Shea said Tuesday.

Mr. Shea, at a city council hearing on the city's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, said that overtime spending is at a 15-year low. He urged against spending cuts to his department, which lost some funding last year and has faced calls for further reductions from some city lawmakers.

The NYPD's proposed annual expense budget for the coming fiscal year is $5.44 billion, which is 5.5% of the city's $98.56 billion overall proposed budget. There are currently 35,030 uniformed members and 15,646 civilian members of the department, according to the NYPD.

The current fiscal year's budget allocates nearly $271 million in overtime for the department, according to Bernard O'Brien, a police budget analyst at the city's Independent Budget Office. The NYPD already has exceeded that amount this year, Mr. O'Brien said.

A total of $837.5 million was spent on NYPD overtime last year, and an average of $740.4 million over the past five years.

"Overtime is a critical tool in maintaining public safety because it affords us additional deployment in neighborhoods with increasing levels of shootings and other violence, including in our transit system and housing developments," Mr. Shea said.

As the city begins to emerge from a pandemic-related shutdown, more police will be needed at parades and other events, he said. New York state is lifting Covid-19 restrictions on businesses later this month.

"As we see these events return, the need for additional police officers will mean additional expenditures," he said, adding that the proposed overtime budget will be insufficient to safely police the events.

Violent crime has surged in New York City since the pandemic began last year, and the NYPD said it recorded 416 shootings from Jan. 1 through May 2, up from 227 shootings in the same period last year.

There were 44 homicides in the city in April, up from 38 homicides in April 2020, according to the NYPD. Last week, three bystanders, including a 4-year-old girl in a stroller, were shot in Times Square.

"Bullets do not discriminate," Mr. Shea said. "We need to do much, much more to stem the violence."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, and the council approved a budget for the current fiscal year on June 30 that cut about $1 billion from the police department's annual budget, including operating expenses and capital spending. The reductions were in response to nationwide protests over the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, a Black man, while in Minneapolis police custody.

Some protesters in New York City camped outside City Hall for weeks before the budget was approved, calling for major reductions to the police department.

Many of the spending cuts the NYPD saw, including millions of dollars for a new police precinct station house in southeast Queens, have been restored as the city has received federal funding to fill Covid-19 budget shortfalls.

Mr. de Blasio said at a press conference Tuesday that he believed the department's current head count, including 850 officers who graduated from the police academy last week, was the right number of officers needed to keep the city safe.

At Tuesday's hearing, some council members questioned whether the city needs as many police officers as Mr. Shea said.

"I think there's a major disconnect here, and when you talk about safety, I think you have to have the public's attitude and mind-set as well," said Councilman Danny Dromm, a Democrat who represents parts of Queens and is the chair of the finance division.

Mr. Dromm said investigations into alleged police misconduct during protests were a reason to reduce the number of officers. The city's Department of Investigation, a watchdog agency, issued a report in December saying the department mishandled its response to the Black Lives Matter protests.

Mr. Shea said he speaks to New Yorkers who want more police patrolling their neighborhoods.

"We've made great strides in that but clearly more work to do," he said.


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 11, 2021 18:14 ET (22:14 GMT)

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