Nearly 1,300 police officers will be hired to join an existing force of about 35,000 New York Police Department officers as part of a $78.5 billion budget agreement announced Monday night.
The move, which has been a top priority for City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito but has faced opposition from advocates clamoring for reform in the city's criminal justice system, will cost the city $170 million, the Associated Press (AP) reported. Of the 1,297 new officers, nearly 300 would be assigned to a new counterterrorism team, the New York Times reported.
“There have been long conversations particularly over the last few weeks on what was the right thing to do,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reportedly said on Monday night at City Hall. “Through a lot of work, we came to a plan that allows us to strengthen our police force while encouraging deepening of reform and finding key reforms on the fiscal front.”
The budget also authorizes the hiring of 400 administrative aides who will take over desk jobs currently filled by police officers, allowing the latter to be deployed on the streets.
The budget, up from $75 billion a year ago, is expected to be voted upon by the city council later this week. And the hiring announcement comes at a time when de Blasio’s administration has come under intense pressure following an increase in the number of homicides and shootings in New York City for two straight years.
According to recent reports, even as overall crime rates shrunk to near record lows, murders in the city rose to 154 from 138, while shootings went up to 515 from 488, compared to the same period last year. Homicides by gunfire also witnessed an increase in the same time period.
However, the move to hire new officers was criticized by many who alleged that the police force was guilty of discrimination when it came to dealing with black and Latino men.
“This deal to increase the NYPD headcount seems like politics at its worst,” Monifa Bandele, a leader of the advocacy group Communities United for Police Reform, said, in a statement released Monday. “It’s disappointing and perplexing that the city budget will increase the NYPD headcount when systemic problems with police accountability and culture that allow New Yorkers to be abused and killed have yet to be fixed -- and while major needs in our communities are under-resourced.”