Members of the City Council's Public Safety Committee got a rare crack at NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly this morning, questioning him on budgetary and other matters including stop and frisk, unlawful surveillance of Muslims, bloated overtime expenditures, marijuana arrests, and what exactly the department is doing with all its counterterrorism money.
Many of the questions focused on the shrinking number of uniformed officers: for the next fiscal year, the NYPD will have 459 fewer officers, bringing the total to around 34,500. Yet the NYPD expects to spend $634 million in overtime for FY 2013, a $30 million increase from FY 2012 (in part due to Hurricane Sandy). Councilmembers Peter Vallone, Jr. and Elizabeth Crowley both asked: isn't it cheaper to just hire more officers instead of hemorrhaging overtime?
"Not necessarily," Kelly responded. "It's actually cheaper to have an OT tour than a straight time tour. When you hire more officers, they make more arrests," which eats up more administrative time and resources.
Crowley pressed the point, noting that 40% of the NYPD's overtime is planned in advance to police public events, so the costs could be mitigated by better management practices. "Not just you, but every uniformed unit in the city is spending too much overtime," she said, adding that by her calculations, 2,500 new police officers could be hired instead of paying unnecessary overtime. "It's not that simple, but we can talk about it," Kelly replied.
Councilmember Brad Lander wanted to know what the jobs of the 543 unsalaried employees working for the Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism entail. That number is greater than the 291 full-time positions the bureau employs. "Where are you getting these numbers?" Kelly asked. The OMB Budget report [PDF page 664], Lander replied. How much of the office's $27 million budget (or the $47 million for the Counterterrorism Unit's budget) did they use? And what exactly do these unsalaried employees do?
Kelly's reply: "I don't know what [the unsalaried positions] are."
Lander also asked how many full-time NYPD officers are stationed permanently overseas, and how much they're being compensated. There are twelve. "Take the average for a police officer, use that as a reasonable estimate," Kelly said. As Lander's five minutes with Kelly expired, the councilmember expressed his concern that the NYPD was using "religion, not leads" to spy on members of the Muslim community in New York City and beyond; Kelly stared down at the table, nodding his head.
Following up on comments made by Councilmember David Greenfield, Vallone asked Kelly to specifically state whether one would be arrested for a misdemeanor if they displayed marijuana in public view upon the orders of a police officer. "No," Kelly said. "We put that out as internal policy," the marijuana has to be in public view. Kelly said they made around 27,000 arrests for marijuana in 2012, and that marijuana arrests overall are "going down." The figure was actually 39,000 for 2012, though that does represent a drop of 22%.
Councilmember Jumaane Williams had stated earlier that he was planning on addressing the "riot" that broke out in his district last night after a peaceful vigil for the 16-year-old boy shot and killed by two NYPD officers over the weekend, saying that Kelly's comments on the matter "belittles a lot of anger" in the community. It was the testiest exchange of the hearing, with the two of them engaging in cross-talk and making sardonic remarks on topics of stop-and-frisk and community policing.
When Williams suggested that Kelly was being disingenuous about not citing the fact that stop and frisks dropped along with the murder rate, Kelly nodded his head, and said, "You know they're working. You know they're working."
In talking about why the stops had dropped last year, Kelly said "There is no number, there is no quota" before Williams interjected with "I didn't mention a quota commissioner! I didn't mention a quota." Kelly: "I'll mention it to you."
The bulk of the confrontation begins around the 1:00 mark.