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De Blasio noncommital on Bratton's call for 1,000 more cops

Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a press

Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a press conference at City Hall on Aug. 18, 2014. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Mayor Bill de Blasio was noncommital Tuesday on NYPD Commissioner William J. Bratton's desire for more than 1,000 additional cops next year.

City Hall would consider Bratton's request as the administration begins to hammer out the contours of next year's budget, but "it might yield that, it might yield something different," de Blasio said.

"I think he was expressing an aspiration," de Blasio said in Park Slope after voting in the Democratic primary for state offices. "That's a very different thing from what we will decide."

Until Monday, Bratton and de Blasio had been on the same page in public on keeping the NYPD's head count at its current level -- 34,834 as of Aug. 31.

During the preliminary budget negotiations last spring, both rejected a City Council push to add 1,000 new cops at a cost of $95 million the first year -- officers that Bratton said he didn't need and that de Blasio said the city couldn't afford. Bratton said he'd rather see money go for officer raises.

The final budget agreement for this year's budget, which began July 1, took a more modest step -- shifting 200 cops to street duty from desk duty.

Bratton told a City Council oversight committee Monday that he now wants the additional cops to keep the department from being overstretched -- in part as officers are taken off the streets for new use-of-force training in the aftermath of the Eric Garner chokehold death case. The NYPD used overtime this summer to tamp down crime surges in problem areas.

De Blasio called the request "not surprising" but didn't say whether Bratton told him beforehand what he would say in Monday's hearing.

"My job is to figure out what's in the best interests of the city and come up with a budget that reflects all of our needs and is fiscally prudent," de Blasio said.

The number of NYPD officers has fluctuated over the past three decades, hitting a 30-year low of 24,776 in 1984, and peaking at 40,540 in 2000.

The rank-and-file officers union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, has long demanded an increase.

Also Tuesday, de Blasio suggested that he was in accord with Bratton against a proposal to make illegal the chokehold Officer Daniel Pantaleo used to restrain Garner, a case caught on amateur video.

NYPD rules have banned the practice for years, and Bratton said that was sufficient.

"I think we have to be a little careful in terms of the legal front that there are some very exceptional situations where the life of the officer could truly be in danger, and that's where there has to be some flexibility," de Blasio said.

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