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Pricey body guards expand for city officials

While flanked by his 2 bodyguards, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg attends an event at the Queens County Courthouse.  (Andrew Hinderaker)

City officials have been getting increased security in recent years, and while the extra protection has proven crucial in some incidents, not all New Yorkers are happy about picking up the tab.

Compensation just one NYPD detective who guards city officials is nearly $100,000, according to NYPD figures.

“I don’t think we should pay for that,” said Joe Pill, a Brooklyn resident.

Hizzoner has long had a bodyguard or two, but the detail expanded after San Francisco’s mayor George Moscone was assassinated in 1978, said Ed Koch, who was  mayor at the time. He got another guard after the pope was shot in 1981, and his detail eventually expanded to five, he said. The NYPD’s Municipal Security Section, which handles mayoral protection, was modeled after the Secret Service.

“I left all details related to security to the police commissioner. I never asked for anyone,” Koch said.

The city comptroller also got a guard who drove him around in 1978, Koch recalled, and the council speaker and public advocate followed suit when those positions were created. When the newest comptroller and public advocate took office this year, they doubled their cadre to six police officers assigned to them at all times, while the mayor now has more than a dozen, according to published reports.

An NYPD spokesman would not comment on security arrangements for public officials.
Former Council Speaker Gifford Miller was known for having a big security team, but grumbling about it stopped after one of his guards took down a  gunman who killed City Councilman James Davis in City Hall in 2003.

Threats to officials aren’t that rare. Former public advocate Betsy Gotbaum had a stalker And last year, a man was arrested for threatening Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

“There’s great care in security, as there is a lot of cost associated with it,” said Sal Lifrieri, the former city director of security and intelligence. “It’s not just … giving someone an entourage.”

Outside City Hall, MTA CEO JAY Walder has been spotted with two MTA Police guards. “Chairman Walder adheres to the expert security recommendations of the MTA (police department),” a spokesman said.

Transit advocates say there’s a need for the guards when the MTA makes unpopular service cuts. In 1981, a man stormed MTA headquarters and fired at a doorsaid Gene Russianoff, of the Straphangers Campaign.

“Some things are arguably a waste of money, but this is not one of them,” Russianoff said.
(Nicholas Klopsis contributed to this story)


Before they determine a city official’s security details, the NYPD will:
1. Examine verbal and written threats to the official
2. Speak with investigators or confidential informants for tips about harassment
3. Determines how many officers are necessary; the threat assessment
is updated regularly.
Source: Sal Lifrieri, former city director of security and intelligence


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