The leader of the New York City Council renewed her push to add more cops to the NYPD's head count -- setting up a potential conflict with Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose preliminary budget had no new cops for the 35,000-officer force.
Addressing a breakfast at New York Law School Friday, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said the new cops are necessary to do "community policing," which her council members say is essential to healing the rift between the NYPD and the neighborhoods officers patrol.
"We need more officers on the ground," she said. "Effective community policing needs more resources, not less."
Policing across the country has come under a microscope in the aftermath of civilian deaths by officers. In the city, tensions were inflamed after an officer used a banned, and fatal, apparent chokehold to arrest accused cigarette peddler Eric Garner in July.
De Blasio's preliminary budget, released in February, proposed a zero increase in cops. But his police commissioner, William Bratton, said in a radio interview earlier this week that he's "optimistic" that the final budget would include more officers. He did not say how many.
The council's response to the mayor's budget is due April 20, and Mark-Viverito's top spokesman, Eric Koch, said it would be out "soon." The dispute must be resolved by the end of June, when the final budget is due.
Mark-Viverito has not disclosed how many cops she wants to see added, but last year the council unsuccessfully pushed for 1,000. Koch said Friday it's "safe to assume" the "same ballpark this year."
Mark-Viverito is also proposing changes to the city's criminal-justice system, including a taxpayer-subsidized bail fund and decriminalizing certain low-level offenses, like subway fare evasion.
Asked about aspects of the plan, de Blasio said: "We've looked at a variety of proposals, but what we've done is what we believe we need to do," he said, pointing to the decision to allow possession of small amounts of marijuana without arrest.
His spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick didn't address specific questions about the administration's budget plans. She pointed to the mayor's remarks last week in which he declined to offer specifics on the NYPD's future head count, but added that the department is performing well at current staffing levels.