NEW YORK CITY — The NYPD reached out to retired cops last week asking them to volunteer to get the New York City Marathon up and running — but the request enraged officers who live in neighborhoods savaged by Hurricane Sandy.
Mayor Bloomberg had pushed for the footrace to go on as scheduled on Sunday, but ultimately he canceled it after taking a pounding from politicians, residents and even runners who thought it should be scrubbed because of the crunch on city resources.
On Thursday, a day before the city pulled the plug on the race, the NYPD asked retired cops to assist in handing out water to runners and cleaning streets along the course.
After 9/11, the NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly created a pool of retired cops that could supplement the department's active uniformed force in times of disaster or large-scale events. Known as the Retiree Mobilization Plan, the pool consists of 2,600 retired cops who are available at any time.
RMP volunteers who live the Rockaways and parts of Staten Island were livid over the marathon request.
"There are people here who haven't seen FEMA yet, and they're asking me to go the marathon," said one outraged retired cop whose home was one of 80 destroyed in Breezy Point in the Rockways. "There are people here who haven't eaten. They have no water, they have no food. People here need to come out and help us."
"We're still out here looking for dead people, and they want us to come out and hand out water for the marathon," said another retired officer from Staten Island.
Mayor Bloomberg said Friday afternoon that the marathon, which has taken place every year since 1970, was canceled.
Before the decision, police sources said there was fear that angry residents would sabotage the marathon by turning on fire hydrants to flood streets on the race route. There was also concern that runners would be pelted by objects, sources said.
The RMP volunteers carry NYPD-issued IDs, and wear jackets identifying themselves. The volunteers receive refresher training twice a year to keep their skills up to date.
On Friday, the NYPD requested RMP volunteers meet at Miller Field in Staten to help distribute food, clothing and other supplies in Staten Island.
Roy T. Richter, the president of the NYPD Captains Endowment Association, praised the assistance of the RMP volunteers, but said their efforts shined a spotlight on the problems with the department's pared-down police force.
"This action, mobilizing retired police officers to assist in keeping this city safe, is a further example of resourceful and innovative thinkers in the NYPD who strive to keep this city safe,"
"It also highlights the impact 7,000 fewer officers have had in our ability to respond to disastrous events. In the next 24 months we anticipate 5,000 additional officers retiring from the NYPD. There are not enough new officers in the pipeline being hired to replace these officers."
"Keeping the City safe and providing a welcome environment for business and people to live here should not be a game of how low can you go."