The NYPD is significantly behind its own timetables to convert hundreds of administrative jobs performed by officers to civilian positions, costing city taxpayers tens and possibly hundreds of millions of dollars in recent decades, according to a recent audit by the City Comptroller’s Office.
The report, released Jan. 21, also found that the department has not been transparent about its civilianization efforts, telling the City Council, for instance, that more than 400 jobs had been civilianized. The Comptroller’s review, though, found that the department could not show that it had done so.
Stringing Council Along?
According to the report, the NYPD’s most recent civilianization initiative, sketched out in Fiscal Year 2016, identified 415 jobs—titles such as Administrative Aide, Crime Analyst, Auto Service Worker and Evidence Property Control Specialist—being performed by cops that could and should be done by civilians, who typically earn less— sometimes substantially less—than uniformed personnel and receive less-generous pensions.
But while the NYPD said those jobs were given to civilians by March 2019, or 21 months after the department’s target date, the Comptroller’s staff could not substantiate that.
“Rather, the evidence the NYPD provided was not internally consistent, nor was it consistent with the corresponding data it submitted to the City Council,” the report said. “Consequently, the audit cannot assess the degree to which the figures the NYPD reported to the City Council accurately represent actual civilianized positions.”
And while the NYPD had by the conclusion of that initial effort identified another 368 other positions it determined could be performed by civilians, as of April 2021, none of those shifts had occurred.
'Not Good Use of Training'
The Comptroller, Brad Lander, urged the Police Department “to take a hard look” at the audit’s findings and speed up the civilianization process.
“Police officers are trained for challenging jobs on the streets of our city, yet far too often we rely on them to do tasks that they are not well-equipped to do, or that are not good uses of their training,” he said in a statement accompanying the audit, which was largely done under his predecessor, Scott Stringer. “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.”
The audit report said an absence of “documented policies and procedures governing the civilianization process” at the department could be a reason for the haphazard effort. The NYPD also rebuffed the Comptroller’s request for a comprehensive list of officers. “As a result, 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 report said.
NYPD Questions Methodology
In its response, the NYPD said it was “concerned with the methodology” used to compile the audit because the Comptroller’s Office has a “fundamental misunderstanding” of officers’ tasks and responsibilities “and unrealistic expectations of data collection.”
While the department said it did not provide a full roster of uniformed staff because of security risks to officers, it suggested that the information could be obtained through the city payroll system, reasoning the Comptroller's office found puzzling.
The NYPD did agree with one of the audit’s recommendations, namely to “develop, disseminate, and implement written management policies and procedures” to identify officers’ duties and positions.
The audit said the department disagreed with a finding that positions occupied by officers but suitable to civilians should be converted in a timely manner. But the NYPD said that efforts to civilianize positions were made “as quickly as possible” and noted it is not the only participant in the hiring process.
Won't Talk About Sharing
The NYPD did not measurably respond to a recommendation that the department can readily produce and share its civilianization data and records, the report said.
The department said it was otherwise in compliance with the recommendation that it “maintain supporting evidence of its activities, determinations and results” regarding civilianizable duties and positions, an assertion the Comptroller’s Office said was “belied by our audit findings.”
The president of the Police Benevolent Association, Patrick J. Lynch, said that while there were numerous ways to address “waste and inefficiency” within the department, those should not entail “a ‘stealth defunding’ under the guise of civilianization that undermines NYPD operations and our public safety mission."
He added, “Nor can we afford any further reduction in overall uniformed headcount in the middle of this public-safety crisis, a time when the public is demanding that we add staffing to meet the increased challenges.”