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Saturday, 29 June, 2002, 00:34 GMT 01:34 UK
New York faces police crisis
NYPD officer
Police numbers are falling

New York's powerful police union has accused the police department of allowing "sub-standard" recruits onto the force, in a desperate attempt to keep numbers up.

The New York Police Department faces a recruitment crisis due to the "retirement effect" of the 11 September attacks, coupled with uncompetitive pay rates.

On Monday, the NYPD's famous Police Academy is due to receive almost 2,500 new recruits.

But the New York Post newspaper reported on Friday that at least nine of them have been arrested in the past for drink-driving.

'Scandal for tomorrow'

Thousands of veteran officers have exercised their right to leave this year, having completed 20 years' service or more.

Twin Towers on fire
Many officers retired after 11 September
Pensions are linked to the final year of earnings, and the World Trade Center attacks meant huge overtime payments for most.

Police numbers have already fallen from 41,000 before September, to around 37,000 now.

The new recruits' records came to light during the NYPD's own background checks on just 100 of the new cadets, the New York Post says. Checks are continuing on the rest.

The president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association - which represents all of New York's beat officers - Patrick Lynch, told me: "The main reason NYPD is doing this is because they cannot fill a Police Academy by other means."

"What they are doing now by allowing these sub-standard folks on this job, is creating scandal for tomorrow", he said.

He said the only way to ensure quality recruitment and retention was by increasing police pay.

New policy

Port Authority police officers - which have jurisdiction over the area around the World Trade Center site - receive thousands more in basic pay.


Several social programmes have been controversially slashed, so there will be no extra money available to attract and keep policemen

The same is true of most suburban forces that border New York City, and the streets are less stressful.

But the NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, was adamant that the drink-driving reports, did not indicate a lowering of standards.

Speaking at a promotions ceremony in the city, he said: "We're not hiring anyone with a [drink-driving] conviction¿The article only mentions arrests. Arrests in and of themselves, can never be a bar to public employment."

Although no rules are being broken, the commissioner made something of a rod for his own back earlier this year by introducing a new policy automatically firing any officer who injures someone, while driving under the influence.

"If you are going to hold the NYPD officer to a higher standard¿ Then you must bring the higher quality candidate in through the front door," says Patrick Lynch.

'No slack'

As the anniversary of 11 September looms, the city will struggle to fill the vacancies with the people it really wants, and close the salary gap that exists with outlying areas.

An austere annual budget of $41bn, has only just been passed, which still leaves New York $5bn in debt.

Several social programmes have been controversially slashed, so there will be no extra money available to attract and keep policemen.

One source inside City Hall told me: "There's no more slack. The mayor can't make any modifications now, and giving extra money to the police would be deemed unfair - although there's still a lot of goodwill towards them post 11 September."

See also:

15 May 02 | Americas
19 Mar 02 | Americas
20 Nov 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
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