NYPD Blows Budget, Again

Issue 259

Roman Broszkowski Oct 30, 2020

Despite assurances from New York City officials that its overtime budget would be slashed by 60 percent, the NYPD is already on track to overspend its $268 million allowance — in spite of being only three months into its 2021 fiscal year.

“For the first three months of the current fiscal year, which began in July, NYPD has recorded overtime costs for uniformed officers of nearly $86 million,” wrote Doug Turetsky, the chief of staff and communications director for New York City’s Independent Budget Office — a publicly funded agency that provides information about New York City’s budget to the public — in an emailed comment to The Indypendent. “That puts the police department on pace to exceed its overtime budget by roughly $116 million this year.”

These updated financial estimates represent the newest turn in a long-running fight over the NYPD’s budget. While City officials pledged over the summer to cut close to $1 billion in police spending, activists maintain that the city is simply playing a budgetary shell game to give the appearance of reductions while dismissing demands to defund.

Critics point to the city’s promise to reduce overtime spending from $820 million to $268 million as an egregious example of this deception. Experts in both the city’s Independent Budget Office (IBO) and in the policing justice ecosystem argue that officials lack the stomach to actually prevent the NYPD from going over budget with overtime and that these cuts are therefore unlikely to happen. And a lot more overtime spending could be on the way if there are ongoing protests over a disputed presidential election.

“Whether the name of the mayor has been Giuliani, Bloomberg, or de Blasio, [the] NYPD has seemingly been able to generate overtime as it sees fit,” Turetsky wrote.

The IBO wrote in their “IBO’s Updated Economic and Revenue Forecast and Review of the Adopted Budget for 2021” Snapshot that “[While] the budget assumes overtime can be reduced by roughly 60 percent from the 2017-2019 average to $268 million in 2021 … IBO estimates that 2021 NYPD overtime will actually be $400 million higher than budgeted.”

Brooklyn College Professor of Sociology and author of The End of Policing Alex Vitale is even more pessimistic.

“Already we see signs that [NYPD] just are going to blow right through the overtime budget that was allocated to them,” he said. “I’m sure they’ll get to that 800 million number,”

NYPD overtime spending has steadily increased over the years. According to the Citizen Budget Commission of New York (CBC-NY), between 2014–2020, the NYPD averaged $711 million in yearly overtime.

The vast majority of this overtime is spent on functions that mostly deal with low-level offenses, Vitale explains.

“A huge amount of [NYPD overtime] is for patrol functions and this is preventable,” he said. “If we dramatically reduced police response to mental health crisis calls, if we got them out of the drug and sex work business, if we quit using them to chase homeless people around, we would significantly reduce the demands on the patrol bureau and this would allow for overtime to go down.”

The reasons behind the department’s ballooning overtime budget are multifaceted.

“Some of [it] is probably cultural, and some institutional in terms of how the department chooses to police events from street fairs to protests,” Turetsky wrote.

According to Robert Gangi, director of the Police Reform Organizing Project — a public advocacy group — the NYPD’s rampant overtime spending stems from a lack of oversight.

“One of the reasons that I’ve said that overtime expenses are so high is that there’s no effective outside monitor,” he said. “So there’s no agency that will literally or figuratively make the NYPD pay a price for not sufficiently controlling overtime expenses. So in effect, whatever overtime expenses the department incurs the city makes sure that that money is available to cover [them].”

Yet for some activists the question of why the NYPD’s overtime budget has been allowed to expand is mute.

To Tatiana Hill — a civil rights organizer with VOCAL–NY — the answer is obvious.

“[It’s] because the police represent protecting the people in power,” she said. “[These budgeted overtime cuts] are not realistic. It’s not going to happen. That’s a joke, honestly.”

More NYPD Coverage in The Indypendent

NYPD Critics Target Police Union Headquarters by Roman Broszkowski

The NYPD Has Its Own Scandinavian Welfare State by John Tarleton

Queens Student Activist Gets NYC Pols to Return Cop Union Funds by Carrie Klein

Meet New York City’s Newest Neighborhoood: Abolition Park by Amba Guerguerian

The City Hall Occupiers in Their Own Words by Amba Guerguerian

In Budget Vote, City Council Fails to Heed the Demands of Black Lives Matter by Pat Rough

Youth-Led Protest Calls for Defunding the NYPD by Kiara Thomas

A New Era of Surveillance for the NYPD by Katya Schwenk

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