Tensions boiled over between NYPD’s top brass and City Council members Tuesday over an overblown police overtime tab and cops’ controversial handling of the George Floyd protests.
Councilman Daniel Dromm slammed Police Commissioner Dermot Shea for spending millions more than what was allocated for overtime pay — $67 million total as of two months ago — and grilled him on why the council should approve a $114 million increase.
“Have you ever thought that you might not need as many police?” asked Dromm, adding “all of the beatings” at protests and “investigations [into the police protest responses] showed us that we may not need as many police at these situations.”
“Why has NYPD not been able to stay within its budget?” Dromm continued, referring to the $240 million in overtime pay budgeted for the department for 2021.
Shea disputed the councilman’s description of the police response last summer, calling it “factually inaccurate.”
But Dromm, who serves as the chairperson of the council’s finance committee, interrupted, saying, “I saw what we saw on TV. I saw people being pushed to the ground, as well people’s heads been cracked open, so please don’t deny that.”
“You are under oath to please answer questions honestly,” he added.
The tense back and forth erupted just minutes into the first budget hearing of NYPD’s fiscal year 2022 and was just one of a few lively disputes between the top brass and council members during the nearly four-hour session.
The joint hearing, with representatives from the finance and public safety committees, was the council’s first step in reviewing the mayor’s proposed $5.435 billion budget for the NYPD — up from $5.214 billion last year but still down roughly $600 million before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shea made his case to the council for more funds for overtime, saying it “is a critical tool in maintaining public safety because it affords us additional deployments in neighborhoods with increasing levels of shootings, and other violence, including in the transit system.”
Public Safety Chair and Councilwoman Adrienne Adams pressed Shea on whether he thought the increase in crime was connected to the $353 million reduction in overtime.
“It’s one of many factors,” Shea replied. “I don’t think it’s easy to put fingers on. In my opinion, it has an impact on how we can deploy resources and where, and then there are unforeseen circumstances that come up throughout the year as well.”
Minutes earlier, Shea and Dromm had another fiery exchange as the top cop took aim at the city’s low incarceration levels and linked it to the surge in crime.
“Why should we believe that you’ll stick to your overtime budget this time around? You have not given me a clear answer. Are you going to blow it again?” Dromm snapped after the two bickered about jail population levels.
Shea fired back, calling the councilman’s tone “completely disrespectful.”
“Let me just say, council member, if my officers spoke to the public this way, I would fire them,” Shea said. “I think it’s completely disrespectful to have showmanship. Let’s have an honest conversation and a back and forth.”
Both sides are due back for additional testimony on May 25.