NEW YORK CITY — The police force and other uniformed services have shrunk while the rest of the city workforce has ballooned during Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration, DNAinfo.com New York has learned.
There are now roughly 34,500 cops on the beat, about the same number as there were in 1992 when the city was besieged by crime and down from 37,000 in 2002 when Bloomberg took office.
But the city's overall workforce has grown, There are now roughly 271,000 full-time employees on the city payroll, up 10 percent from 247,000 in 2002, according to city stats obtained by DNAinfo.com New York.
And as “On The Inside” previously reported, the NYPD is facing an unprecedented wave of 10,000 retirements in the next three years. These are cops hired 20 years ago under the “Safe Cities, Safe Streets” program, which was hastily ordered in 1992 by then-Mayor David Dinkins and the City Council to combat a tidal wave of crime that gripped the city.
“I feel we are facing a public safety cliff given the anticipated wave of retirements, which are the natural product of David Dinkins' investment in the future of the city when he was mayor,” said Roy Richter, president of the Captains Endowment Association which represents the highest supervisory levels of the NYPD.
“We are getting the job done, but with dramatically reduced staff, and my concern is the future.”
Bloomberg has insisted the city doesn't need more cops even though serious crime is up 4.4 percent this year, according to police data. Key crime indexes are up by double digits in the past two years: rapes 10.8 percent; assaults 12.7 percent and grand larceny 11.5 percent.
Emergency response times now have returned to levels when Bloomberg took office, according to his most recent Mayor's Management Report.
“If crime were to spike, I’d be the first one to say we should add cops,” the mayor said during one of his recent radio shows. “When we came into office, we reduced the size by 4,000 or 5,000, and we’ve maintained that for 10 years, and every year we’ve brought crime down.
"What’d I miss here? Our job is not to employ as many of the people as to spend as much of the taxpayers’ money as we can."
Since taking office, the city has added 358 buildings’ personnel, 700 information and technology staffers, 1,000 community college employees, 1,000 new parks workers, 800 Department of Transportation employees and roughly 13,000 teachers and 2,000 more support staffers for the embattled Department of Education.
Meanwhile, the FDNY has shrunk to 10,787 firefighters from 11,321 when Bloomberg took office. The number of corrections officers was down to 8,765 from 10,636, sanitation workers have been cut to 7,197 from 7,821.
“I am taken aback . . . just surprised to hear the overall city work force is up,” said Harry Nespoli, chairman of the Municipal Labor Coalition which represents more than 150,000 city employees.
“[The mayor] is always talking deficit, deficit, deficit, deficits and each year he has a surplus, surplus and surplus.”
In fiscal year 2011 alone, the mayor projected a $3.2 billion deficit, but ended with a nearly $2 billion surplus, a $5.1 billion swing. In several Bloomberg years, the swing was as much as $8.3 billion.
Meanwhile, the thin Blue Line of cops gets thinner each year.
When Bloomberg took office, there were about 37,000 cops and quickly grew to 41,000 within a year. But the department has slowly shrunk to today’s 34,500 cops, with nearly 1,200 assigned to counter-terrorism duties and another 1,200 working in the Internal Affairs Bureau, further thinning police presence on the street.
In 1992, there were 34,825 cops on the payroll, but back then there was no counter-terrorism component and a smaller IAB.
The NYPD and FDNY will face smaller reductions of 2.7 percent and 4 percent, Bloomberg said recently when he ordered agencies to prepare for a new round of cuts when his budget director warned the city will need $2 billion in savings.
The cuts of 5.4 percent this fiscal year and another 8 percent next year for most agencies were prompted partly to offset millions of dollars in revenue Bloomberg expected to earn from his plan to expand taxi service into the outer boroughs. That is now likely to be defeated.
“Every time there is a problem, this time with handling the taxi plan and not sitting down with the City Council and working this out before hand, they come back and now negotiate with peoples’ lives and threaten layoffs,” Nespoli said.
Fiscal watchdogs such as Maria Doulis, the director of city studies at the Citizens Budget Commission, and other longtime government observers say it is common practice for mayors to go on hiring benders early in their administration and then pare back later.
“Every mayor does this game,” another political insider said. "Grow the city workforce and then cry crisis."
There was one exception — Dinkins, who hired more cops while shrinking the overall workforce.
Dinkins learned the hard way that cops mattered. After “Safe Cities” was created, crime plummeted for 18 consecutive years.
Last week, Bloomberg evoked a possible return to the “bad old days” because the Bronx District Attorney questioned whether cops are unlawfully arresting some people visiting housing projects.
With crime on the rise over the last two years and with a police force at 1992 levels, that return might have more to do with the city's thinning Blue Line.