The New York City Police Department in 2016 promised to bring on 415 civilian employees, but almost six years on it’s not clear if that ever happened, according to an audit released Friday by City Comptroller Brad Lander.

The hiring of civilians for administrative duties was cited as a cost-saving measure that would allow uniformed officers to shift back to crime-fighting responsibilities, as civilians make about $50,000 less than uniformed police on average. But Lander’s report found that police offered conflicting information about their progress on the hiring and it’s not clear how much money the NYPD might have saved in the process.

“Paying uniformed, armed police officers to perform administrative duties that could be handled by civilian employees wastes resources that could be better utilized to improve community safety for New Yorkers,” Lander wrote in a statement along with the audit. “I urge the Department to take a hard look at the findings of this audit and accelerate the civilianization process to make better use of our public safety resources.”

It’s the first audit published since Lander assumed the role of New York City Comptroller on Jan. 1, though the report was completed by staffers under Scott Stringer, the office’s former head. As a City Council member, Lander was a vocal proponent of defunding the police in the wake of George Floyd's murder and the protests that ensued on New York City streets.

In a response to the audit sent to his office, the NYPD took issue with the methodology and findings and denied a claim made in the audit that the department was not keeping adequate records around civilian recruiting.

“The Comptroller’s office failed to understand that the initiative was not a straight one of one replacement of officers with civilians but rather shifting specific responsibility that could be carried out by their civilian counterparts,” NYPD officials told the Comptroller’s office.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information John Miller said Friday that the department was still waiting for approval from City Hall to make additional civilian hires — something he said was communicated to Lander's office.

"The Department has continued to request resources for additional civilianization, but the request has not yet been funded by OMB due to budget constraints," Miller said in a statement. "Until funding and headcount are authorized for additional civilianization positions, NYPD cannot proceed."

He also said the process for hiring "involves many steps, including extensive candidate review and background investigations," but added, "Whenever feasible, every effort has been made to fill civilian positions as quickly as possible while ensuring due diligence and working within the requirements of the city hiring process."

The comptroller’s audit tried to ascertain how many civilian employees had been brought on to the agency between 2015 and 2019. But reports the NYPD sent to the City Council conflicted with ones it provided to the Comptroller. Various sets of data the NYPD sent to the comptroller’s office also appeared to conflict with each other, the audit found. In one set of numbers the NYPD provided, the agency claimed it had brought on 591 civilian employees during that period — in another, the agency said it had only hired 289 civilians.

When the comptroller’s office asked the NYPD for underlying records to verify its claims, they were stonewalled, according to the report.

“The NYPD was minimally responsive to our requests, eventually citing potential difficulties and security concerns the agency anticipated it would face,” the report reads. “We were unable to estimate the savings that the NYPD had achieved, could have achieved and could potentially achieve in the future through civilianization efforts.”

The comptroller’s office took issue with the agency referencing security concerns.

“The NYPD does not indicate the nature of the purported security risk so we were unable to assess the veracity of its claim,” the report said. “Consequently we find that the NYPD’s argument has no merit.”

For decades, uniformed officers who earn an average of more than $100,000 a year after overtime and bonuses, have done tasks within the agency that could just as easily be done by civilians at a much lower cost to taxpayers ; such as secretarial, administrative or public relations duties. Including overtime pay, civilians made around $50,700 less a year than uniformed officers, according to the city’s Independent Budget Office.

Budget watchdogs have long argued that bringing on more civilian employees would free up uniformed officers for crime fighting responsibilities, and thus lead to lower costs in overtime for uniformed officers. The NYPD for years, has blown through the overtime budget allotted by the city. In 2020, the agency spent more than $800 million just on overtime; less than the entire budget of the Parks Department.

The city lost an approximate $24.4 million a year because the NYPD had police officers working administrative jobs, according to a 2002 audit from the City Comptroller. But the NYPD’s efforts to address the issue have consistently fallen behind schedule.

An Independent Budget Office review from 2016 found that, in the three prior years, the NYPD had been allotted funding to bring on 1,668 civilian employees but only hired 284. Through last fiscal year, the NYPD employed 34,858 uniformed personnel and 15,638 civilians, according to the annual Mayor’s Management report.

It’s also an issue that current Mayor Eric Adams campaigned on tackling. One of his campaign pledges was to save an estimated $500 million in NYPD spending by recruiting more civilians to do administrative work. Adams, a former NYPD captain, railed about the issue as recently as Wednesday, during a press conference at City Hall.

“There are too many police officers inside these agencies that are just there. They're not on modified assignments,” he said. “They’re just assigned to do non-law enforcement. That just makes no sense for taxpayers.”

His office didn’t immediately return a request for further comment. A spokesperson for the Sergeants Benevolent Association likewise didn’t respond to inquiries.

PBA President Patrick Lynch said there were “plenty of common-sense ways to eliminate waste and inefficiency.” The union cited vendor contracts, outside consultants and top-heavy management structures as among the areas the department could examine for cost savings.

“What we can’t have is a ‘stealth defunding’ under the guise of civilianization that undermines NYPD operations and our public safety mission,” Lynch said. “Nor can we afford any further reduction in overall uniformed headcount in the middle of this public safety crisis.”

This story has been updated with additional information from the NYPD and the PBA.