New York City Council wants to add police, create bail fund

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York City Council called Tuesday for hiring 1,000 more police officers, creating a bail fund for low-level offenses, and resurfacing damaged roads among other recommendations in its 2016 budget proposal.

The council also proposed expanding services for immigrants, providing free lunch for all public school students and allocating more money for critical repairs at public housing buildings. Another budget recommendation would expand the city’s summer youth employment program into a year-round effort that could employ 8,000 youths.

Mayor Bill de Blasio will present his executive budget in early May. A budget deal must be brokered by the end of June.

The overwhelmingly Democratic council has largely marched in lockstep with de Blasio, a Democrat, as he has acted to expand the role of city government in people’s lives, particularly the less fortunate. But the issue of hiring more police officers is one where the mayor and the council diverge: de Blasio shot down the same proposal during last year’s budget discussions, saying the money would be better spent elsewhere due to the city’s record low crime.

“If we want to really improve the trust between our communities and the police, that doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said. “We need proactive positive engagement from the police with our communities. That is what more officers on the ground will do.”

The issue has come under increased scrutiny this year, in the wake of de Blasio’s rift with police union leaders and rank-and-file officers.

Protests rallied in the city’s streets in December after a grand jury declined to indict a white police officer for placing Eric Garner, who was black, in a fatal chokehold. And after two police officers were slain weeks later by a gunman who cited Garner’s death on social media, many officers rebelled against de Blasio, repeatedly turning their backs to him — including at the officers’ funerals — and taking part in a work slowdown.

The council’s budget office projected that hiring two new classes of officers, to total 1,000, would cost nearly $69 million in the upcoming fiscal year. But the council believes that the cost will be offset by the corresponding reduction in overtime; Bratton last month said that overtime costs for the fiscal year were estimated to reach $672 million, an increase of $89 million from the year before.

The NYPD now has a headcount of about 34,500, about 6,000 fewer than at its peak in 2001. De Blasio has not committed to hiring more officers but has been more receptive to the proposal in his public remarks than he was a year ago.

Murders are up nearly 12 percent from this time a year ago, and shootings have also increased, according to NYPD crime statistics.

The $1.4 million citywide bail fund would provide bail for defendants charged with low-level misdemeanors with bail set at $2,000 or less. The fund would help reduce the number of detainees at Rikers Island, the council said.

“Currently, if you cannot afford bail, you spend on average 24 days in jail for a non-violent offense,” Mark-Viverito said. “This is not justice and the bail fund will begin to fix this.”

The council also wants an additional $103 million included in the budget to resurface 1,500 lane miles of road each year for the next four years. That amount is necessary because the city has fallen behind on street repaving in recent years and has a 2,000-lane-mile gap to fill, the council said.

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