After a summer of massive protests, looting, lost overtime and growing pressure to defund the police, more NYPD officers retired in 2020 than at any time in the past five years, according to the latest departmen statistics.
By the end of 2020, some 2,600 NYPD cops had retired, an increase of 72% over 2019, according to department data. The flight of talent last year surpassed the number of retirements for every year as far back as 2016, when 1,376 cops retired.
The pace has slowed somewhat in 2021, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said recently. But retirements are still running higher than last year, he said.
"I mean it couldn’t go any higher, what we saw in June, July, August, September was off the charts," Shea said a few weeks ago in a briefing with reporters.
At his annual State of The NYPD address to the non-profit New York City Police Foundation on Wednesday, Shea said the attrition that hit the department was a "very aggressive" flood of retirements that continues to force him and his staff to make tough decision on using resources.
Additional data suggested the department may be in for additional losses since as many as 2,745 cops "filed for retirement," an increase of 77% over 2019. That category covers those who have filed notice they intend to retire at some point in the near future. Some of those officers may be included in the group that left in 2020 but others may be awaiting pension board decisions or other proceedings before they finally call it quits.
The department was stretched thin over the summer as anti-police protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police rocked New York City and the country. Over several days from May 28 to early June, the NYPD found itself confronting 640 protests, including violence aimed at officers that department brass had not anticipated.
While many of the city demonstrations were largely peaceful, hundreds of protestors and more than 400 cops were injured in confrontations. Dozens of police vehicles were damaged and looting ravaged parts of Manhattan and the Bronx.
As a push in the City Council to defund the NYPD gained traction, the department lost a significant amount of overtime money. The financial hit to cops, along with the anti-police sentiment, drove many of the retirements, officials said.
"I think it was money, I think it was finances with overtime … because if you tell someone over the next four years you are going to make less money, they have to consider that," Shea said.
Reacting Wednesday to the attrition numbers, Police Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said the retirements were a big brain drain on the NYPD.
"We practically had a line out the door of PBA headquarters this summer. Dozens upon dozens of talented, experienced cops were stopping by every week to tell us they were pulling the pin they’d had enough," said Lynch in a statement to Newsday. "Nearly 3,000 left."
The 2020 retirements dropped its uniformed strength from 36,000 early last year to about 34,220 by the fall. At a time when the city was seeing the highest levels of shootings and homicides in years, on top of the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, the department had to scramble to handle its priorities and for a time, put officer on 12-hour shifts.
The pandemic's hit on the city budget forced the cancellation of two NYPD police academy classes early in 2020. But after negotiations with City Hall, the department was able to swear in two academy classes of 900 cops — one in November and another in December. The new officers, who won’t actually be in precincts until the Spring, increased the police headcount to 36,071 as of Saturday.
"The X-factor is how many additional retirements we will have before they [new cops] hit the street," Shea told the Police Foundation.