The New York Police Department is using unmanned police cars on major highways as a deterrent to speeders, reports the New York Daily News. The vacant vehicles – derisively called scarecrows by some cops – were criticized by the city’s police union chief as a “symptom of drastic short-staffing.” Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said, “We don’t have enough people to man the radio cars. Since 9/11, we’re down 4,000 officers, and we don’t have the ability to recruit new officers or keep veterans. You cannot train an unmanned radio car to fight terrorism.”
A police spokesman said that “the unmanned cars are there to help prevent accidents, nothing to do with short-staffing.” There is no dispute over the fact that the city is having a hard time finding recruits to fill Police Academy training classes and that veterans are leaving the department in droves for higher-paying law enforcement jobs in the metropolitan area. Rookie cops start at $25,100, and pay maxes out at $59,588, which lags behind salaries paid by other police departments in the metropolitan area by as much as 30 percent.