Rookies not showing up at Madison Square Garden, what’s new? Last month, only 561 NYPD recruits graduated at the MSG swearing-in ceremony, roughly half of the incoming classes’ targeted numbers, according to the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York. The PBA blames low pay, inferior benefits and “constant abuse” for the lack of new, blue blood.

“Hundreds of our most talented and experienced police officers—the ones who know their communities best—are quitting or retiring every month, and not enough recruits are signing up to replace them,” said the union’s president Pat Lynch in a statement. “The NYPD is trying to paper over this staffing crisis with forced overtime and assignment changes, but that is a vicious cycle. It drives even more cops to pursue other opportunities where they can make more money and have a better quality of life.”

The PBA says a substantial number of officers are leaving the NYPD for other police departments. And some are quitting the profession altogether. As a result, detectives are getting pulled onto patrols, and away from their investigations. According to Detectives’ Endowment Association President Paul Digiacomo, these new street assignments leave major holes in local crime fighting.

“They’re going on a foot post, which is counterproductive to the needs of the people of the city—to investigate homicides, robberies, rapes,” he said. “It’s taking detectives out of every unit within the police department.”

Like patrol, the detective ranks are declining. Digiacomo says back in 2001, the bureau boasted over 7,000 officers. Today, there’s roughly 5,400. And on top of potentially new duties on the beat, detectives work on around 300 to 500 cases a year. The expanded role affects precincts with high crime rates in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx most, according to the Detectives’ Endowment Association.

Detectives get their start as police officers, so they’re not new to the work. And Digiacomo wouldn’t be surprised if they bring extensive skills to patrol work. But he maintains their talents are squandered on the streets.

“The knowledge and experience that they have to investigate crimes should be used to investigate the crimes in their precincts, not stand on foot posts,” said Digiacomo. “That’s the function of the patrol division, not the detective bureau.”

But is New York City less safe? According to the NYPD, crime is up in almost every category, with significant increases in robberies and burglaries compared to the past year. But murders and shootings are down. 

“In our line of business, when we see less gun violence, and more stabbings, that shows us that there’s a trend that’s going downward,” said Andre T. Mitchell, co-chair of Mayor Eric Adams’ gun violence task force. “Hopefully, it will go from stabbings, down to fighting and down to arguments, which is really where they begin…so really right now, stabbings are up, which is actually a good sign in the world of gun violence prevention and reduction. Because that’s what we call harm reduction.”

The incoming class of NYPD officers now inherit all of these ongoing concerns. But Eric Adams believes they offer key ingredients to the city’s success. 

“If I can borrow from the owner of the Snapple soft drink, we are who we are because we’re made up of the best stuff on earth,” Adams said at the academy graduation. “We are New Yorkers, and we are the NYPD.”

Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w 

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