By Murray Weiss, DNAinfo Columnist / Criminal Justice Editor
NEW YORK CITY — The NYPD will lose nearly a quarter of its workforce over the next few years due to the single greatest wave of retirements in the department's history, DNAinfo.com New York has learned.
The expected shedding of personnel stems from a massive NYPD hiring spree launched exactly 20 years ago that added 10,225 officers to the NYPD in a four-year span from 1993 to 1997.
The initiative — called “Safe Cities, Safe Streets” — was hastily created amid an epidemic of crime that was holding New Yorkers hostage to marauding teens, crack-addicted thieves, vicious killers and hostile squeegee men.
“Regardless of who the next mayor is, they will be dealing with this transition and its impact as much as they will be watching the daily crime statistics,” one longtime City Hall insider said.
Under the provisions of the civil service rules, city cops can retire with full benefits after 20 years. Historically, 80 percent of them jump at the chance to take the money and run, police experts told “On The Inside.”
That means the NYPD will experience a brain drain of seasoned officers the like of which it has never before experienced. And the timing of the loss of seasoned cops, detectives and upper echelon supervisors could not be more ill-timed.
The NYPD has shrunk from a high of nearly 41,000 cops a decade ago to roughly 35,000 today.
The department has come under fire for its widespread use of stop-and-frisk, which reached nearly 700,000 frisks a year ago and critics claim is biased against minority communities.
And worse still, serious crime has been on the rise for at least two years as the thin Blue Line gets thinner around the Big Apple after 18 consecutive years of declining crime stats.
This year alone, six of the NYPD’s seven major crime categories are all up through Sept. 1. They include rape by 4 percent; robbery by 4.9 percent; assaults by 3.6 percent and grand larceny by 9.9 percent.
Overall crime has jumped 4.6 percent this year and, for the first time in two decades, every borough has experienced an increase in crime, police statistics show.
Only murder remains down this year, from 345 to 286. But the number of shootings and gunshot victims has increased, which leads experts to theorize that advancements in acute trauma and medical care are the likely reasons for the homicide slide, as "On the Inside" has previously reported.
In fact, over the past two years, rape, assault and grand larceny are all up by double digits: 12 percent, 13 percent, and 11.8 percent, respectively.
Little of this reality, however, has seemingly fazed Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who soon will be entering his lame duck year.
On his radio show recently, Bloomberg said he saw no reason to hire more cops.
“When we came into office we reduced the size by 4,000 or 5,000 and we’ve maintained that for 10 years, and every year we’ve brought crime down,” he said.
“What did I miss here? ...Our job with the Police Department is to bring crime down. It is phenomenally well managed.”
Curiously, every time there is a high-profile shooting, spike in crime or question about stop-and-frisks, Bloomberg defends the NYPD's aggressive strategies saying they are necessary to avoid sliding back to the “bad old days” that led to “Safe Cities, Safe Streets.”
Back in 1992, when there were more than 2,100 murders, New Yorkers besieged then Mayor David Dinkins to “Do Something.” And the money to fund “Safe Cities” was ordered.
In 1992, the city began to train 2,104 new cops in the Police Academy. The following year, 2,942 more cops were added to the rank-and-file, 2,600 more cops joined the NYPD in 1994 and another 2,479 in 1995.
Make no mistake, as former Police Commissioner William Bratton has repeatedly observed, “Cops matter.”
The impact of 10,000 additional cops, coupled with new police strategies, sent crime toppling like dominos.
By the time Bloomberg took office, major crime in New York had been cut by more than half (from 626,182 serious crimes to 263,764 in 2001), a trend that Bloomberg continued through 2010 (with 105,111 major crimes.)
But the party might be over.
In his latest book, “American Police: A History, Vol. II, 1945-2012," Thomas Reppetto, an NYPD expert, observed that “given current financial realities and forecasts for the future, it would probably make sense to significantly cut police strength.
“Unfortunately, one interest group will not cooperate . . . criminals. Indeed, their lack of public spirit suggests that if a large number of cops disappear from the streets, the criminals will step up their activities.”
And that already seems to be the case.