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Cop-Counting Cop-Out

Giuliani's wrong when he claims to have added 12,000 new NYC cops while he was mayor.


Summary

On his Web site, Rudy Giuliani claims that he grew New York City’s police force by 12,000 officers between his inauguration as mayor in January 1994 and mid-2000. That’s just not true. Most of the cops he’s counting were already housing or transit police who were simply folded into the New York Police Department. The merger of the departments didn’t increase the number of police in the city at all.

The actual increase in the size of the force was about 3,660, or about 10 percent, during the period Giuliani pinpoints. And Giuliani doesn’t mention that the cost of hiring about 3,500 of the officers was partially covered by the federal government under President Bill Clinton.

On another matter, we question Giuliani’s claim that on Sept. 11, 2001, he had a new command center “up and running within half an hour” of being forced to evacuate his primary center near the World Trade Center. In his 2002 book, “Leadership,” he says that “we arrived about noon” at the backup site, which was two-and-a-half hours after the evacuation.

Analysis

These aren’t the first statistical exaggerations we’ve found in Giuliani’s statements. We’ve written that he has taken credit for too many New York City tax cuts and inflated the actual increase in adoptions during his tenure as mayor. Others jumped on him in August for saying, incorrectly, that he’d spent as much time at Ground Zero, exposed to the same health risks, as workers who sifted through the rubble.

At least twice on his presidential campaign Web site, Giuliani claims to have increased New York City’s police force by 12,000 officers that boasts, “Under mayor Giuliani the number of police officers in New York City skyrocketed.”

That rocket looks more like a sparkler to us. The number Giuliani uses as his starting point in 1994 includes only New York Police Department officers. He doesn’t count transit police, who patrolled NYC’s subways and other transportation lines, or housing police, who dealt with any trouble in the city’s public housing. Neither of those types of officers were part of the NYPD; they fell under different bureaucracies.

But Giuliani does add the housing and transit police to his later tally. In fact, he officially merged the transit and housing cops into the NYPD in fiscal year 1995. That added close to 7,100 officers to the NYPD’s rolls, the bulk of the 12,000 cops Giuliani claims to have tacked on. But the administrative move didn’t put any new police on the city’s streets. Those officers were already patrolling crime-ridden subways and housing projects.

The merger may well have been beneficial for the NYPD from an efficiency and flexibility standpoint, and it was eventually supposed to save money for the city. Giuliani won kudos from the city’s newspapers when he accomplished the consolidations, which two mayors before him had tried and failed to do. But it’s both inconsistent and misleading for Giuliani to leave the transit and housing cops out of the count in the first place, then take credit for adding them during his watch just because he moved some administrative boxes around. In fact, the blog entry on his Web site (but not the “News” item) implicitly acknowledges as much when it says that 7,555 of the new officers “were the result of merging the NYPD with Transit and Housing Police Departments.” That just makes Giuliani’s boast all the more bewildering. (The 7,555 number is incorrect — according to the mayor’s own FY 1996 Message of the Mayor budget document, just two months before the merger, the housing and transit police departments had 7,095 officers, excluding civilian workers.)

Even the figure Giuliani uses for the number of NYPD officers when he took office – 28,000 – is inaccurate. That would have been about right six months earlier, under Mayor David Dinkins. But the NYPD numbered 29,450 when Giuliani took office, again according to the FY 1996 Message of the Mayor. By using the earlier figure, Giuliani takes credit for 1,450 officers that Dinkins, who had undertaken a special anti-crime initiative, added to the NYPD.

Recalculation

Giuliani says he took the police force from 28,000 to 40,000. His actual starting number for the NYPD should be 29,450, plus the housing and transit cops on the city payroll, which brings it to 36,340 as of Jan. 1994 when he took office. By mid-2000, the total had moved up to 40,000. So we’re left with an increase of 3,660, or about 10 percent. That’s perfectly respectable, but you need a long pole to vault from there to 12,000. And it’s only fair to point out that the federal government, under the auspices of one of President Clinton’s favorite programs, passed by Congress as part of the 1994 crime bill, gave New York City enough money to cover the first $25,000 of the salaries of about 3,500 new officers from 1997 to 2000, according to the city’s nonpartisan Independent Budget Office.

We don’t, by the way, fault Giuliani for stopping his tally in 2000, even though he didn’t leave office until the end of 2001. After 9/11, a number of police officers retired unexpectedly, in some cases because of the emotional impact and in others because their pensions had been boosted by the substantial overtime they’d put in.

9/11 – Crisis for the Emergency Managers

We’ve also found an apparent discrepancy in Giuliani’s own account of how quickly his emergency response team was able to relocate on 9/11 when its command center, which he had put at 7 World Trade Center years earlier, had to be evacuated. He has said in recent interviews that it only took 30 minutes to find and set up a new base. In his own 2002 book, though, he says it was past noon when he and the team settled into their new home two-and-a-half hours after evacuation of the WTC address.

The former mayor’s critics often fault Giuliani for deciding, in the mid-1990s, to put his Emergency Operations Center in 7 World Trade Center, even though the WTC had been bombed in 1993 and seemed a clear terrorist target. The “9/11 Commission Report” raises the issue:

9/11 Report: The [Office of Emergency Management’s] headquarters was located at 7 WTC. Some questioned locating it both so close to a previous terrorist target and on the 23rd floor of a building (difficult to access should elevators become inoperable). There was no backup site.

In a Sept. 19 interview on CNN, reporter John King asked Giuliani about this. His response:

Giuliani, Sept. 19: You know how many buildings in New York are targeted by terrorists? I used to know the list cold. It wasn’t necessarily the only building that was. And in fact, you want an emergency center sort of in the main area of the city. We also had backup centers. So if you look at the response, actually, to the September 11, we had a virtual center, we had our center up and running within a half hour.

Giuliani has claimed on several other occasions this year that he had a new command center operating within 30 minutes of the ordered evacuation at about 9:30 a.m. of 7 World Trade Center. But that conflicts with the account Giuliani gives in his 2002 book, “Leadership.” The book describes how he and his key aides hopscotched from the WTC to 75 Barclay St. to the Tribeca Grand Hotel to Engine Company 24 and finally to the Police Academy, which was deemed suitable and where the crew finally set up.

Giuliani: We arrived about noon, and nearly every member of my administration crammed into the small administrative offices. Soon we were at work, planning our response…. It had taken me seven years to put this team together, to fine-tune it to the point where we could handle even the biggest challenge.

Giuliani spokesman Jeff Berkowitz maintains there is no discrepancy, that fragmented but “functional backups” went into gear immediately. “The police and fire departments could serve those purposes,” he said, as well as a mobile command center. Asked about the 9/11 Commission’s statement that “there was no backup site,” Berkowitz said that the “functional backups” could “serve those purposes.”

Improvising a citywide command center in two-and-a-half hours in the midst of chaos is itself an impressive feat. But Giuliani’s current claim of doing it in 30 minutes is at least inconsistent with his previous account, and possibly a needless exaggeration.

Sources

Giuliani Interviewed on CNN, transcript. The New York Times, 19 Sept. 2007.

Giuliani, Rudolph W. “Leadership.” Miramax Books, Hyperion: New York, 2002, p. 23.

Powell, Michael. “In 9/11 Chaos, Giuliani Forged a Lasting Image.” The New York Times, 21 Sept. 2007.

Ripley, Amanda and Eric Pooley. “We’re Under Attack.” Time, 31 Dec. 2001.

National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. “The 9/11 Commission Report.” W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2004.

Giuliani, Rudy. “The City of New York Executive Budget, Fiscal Year 1996, Message of the Mayor.” 27 Apr. 1995.