Police Commissioner Bill Bratton outlined a first of its kind, yearly training effort for thousands of NYPD officers in front of the City Council yesterday.
The oversight hearing comes just months after Eric Garner was placed in a chokehold and died while in police custody in Staten Island, sparking tensions across the city. Bratton promised a “top to bottom” review of all police training procedures following Garner’s death.
“Refresher training, up-to-date training on changing policies, practices and guidelines, it’s something that has not been done in the department in its history,” Bratton said in front of the Council Committee on Public Safety. “This cannot be just a quick response to recent circumstances… We owe it to our officers, we owe it to the public to regularly train them on issues that cause tension or friction between the public and the police.”
Bratton also told the Council Monday that the NYPD needs to hire at least 1,000 new officers, a reversal from his stance on the issue earlier this year.
Phil Walzak, a spokesman for the mayor, said “the administration already began in last year’s budget the work of increasing NYPD force levels through civilianization. “
He added that the mayor “will review staffing and expenditure proposals” for every city agency when the budget process begins next year.
The new training will focus on discretion, how to de-escalate tense situations as well as conflict resolution and tactics in a three-day yearly course, Bratton said. The initial training, which will begin in November, is expected to cost $25 million to $30 million for about 20,000 officers who patrol the streets, he said.
Currently all officers complete two days of firearms training each year. The training program will start with about 600 officers from several precincts as a pilot program, Bratton said.
Officers would complete the training program with others from the same precinct, Bratton said, allowing them to “learn together because they’re going back to that precinct to police together.”
The course would therefore take hundreds of officers off the streets daily, Bratton said. The “substantial cost,” he added, is to cover the overtime for officers cover those patrols as well as hiring more police academy staff to train the officers.
“Going into next year’s budget cycle… we’re going to have to incorporate both overtime costs or increased number of personnel,” Bratton said. “Because to train officers to the large numbers we’re talking about, I have to pull out, literally every day, hundreds of officers from the precincts. And they’re so short-staffed now they can’t absorb losing those officers without some negative impact on policing in those precincts.”
In terms of cost, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito said she would have to look at the current allocations for training and overtime and figure out if Bratton’s estimate can be covered by the current budget.
“We have to analyze and really look in depth as to what is the rational and justification for that,” Viverito said. “We’re open to looking at everything.”
Additionally, Bratton said he will need to hire “in excess of 1,000 officers” to combat an overstretched department and support the new retraining efforts.
Bratton initially turned down the City Council’s offer to hire 1,000 additional officers in April, but said yesterday he had simply wanted time to assess the department so he could request an exact number of officers needed.
“I can be very comfortable in saying to you that we need more. That’s quite clear,” Bratton said. “We had a very good summer in this city in large part due to the significant amounts of overtime that allowed me to put thousands of additional police officers into the housing developments, into the areas of the city that were having the shootings and the murders. And all in all it was a pretty good summer, but it could not have happened without overtime.”
Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, the police’s union, said he welcomes more officers, but said 1,000 won’t cut it.
“This union has been saying for a decade that the answer to quelling crime hot spots around the city is to hire adequate numbers of police officers to staff our station houses,” Lynch said in a statement. “Increased training helps us to do our job better and safer but it pulls police officers from patrol so in order to do more training you’ll need more officers to cover patrol posts. To keep New York City safe, City Hall has to make police staffing a priority.”
Bratton said the remaining 15,000 officers in the department would receive their refresher training after it is implemented on an annual basis.