Facing budget woes and a recruiting crisis, the New York Police Department may shrink to its smallest size in 15 years, says the New York Times. Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to trim funds for 1,000 police officer positions this year. The plan would drop the maximum number of positions allowed to 36,838. The actual number of officers at work today is only 35,800 because of unfilled positions brought on by the recruitment crisis. There were 34,641 officers in 1993, when a program by Mayor David Dinkins to pump up the police force was under way. The number peaked in October 2000 with 40,800 officers.
Further budget troubles loom now: 2,400 officers are set to retire this year and low starting wages are failing to attract enough replacements. Some officials worry that the number of officers will not meet the new, reduced authorized head count. “Deespite the fact the police staffing has declined quite substantially, crime has continued to go down,” said Preston Niblack of the Independent Budget Office, an agency independent of the mayor's office. “But I think the rate at which crime has been going down has started to slow. The question I find myself asking is, 'How low can crime go?' ”