Defund RIOC Public Safety (PSD), not because of misconduct or bad behavior, but because it makes common sense. Even without the budget crunch.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
By David Stone
How many times have we seen this and similar examples?
It’s Saturday afternoon, and New York City’s perched perilously on the verge of success at fighting COVID-19. The rules are well-known. No active team sports allowed for now. Social distancing is a must as are face masks in public.
But here’s cluster of about a dozen young men on the west side of Pony Field, near the fence. No one’s social distancing, and there’s not a face mask in sight. A soccer ball rests on the grass.
A PSD vehicle approaches. Slowly up the fire lane. They never walk or bike around anymore, just cruise with windows up. And, as expected, the driver passes the athletes without stopping or saying a word.
It was like a scene one Sunday in Blackwell Park. Playgrounds finally opened, and residents took advantage.
But none of them, adults or children, wear masks.
Yet another marked PSD vehicle slowly eases by on the path, not twenty feet away, and does nothing. Not even a shouted reminder.
And last year, without a health crisis, we throughly documented Public Safety’s inability to deal with countless bike and eBike violations on Main Street, a situation that’s grown worse.
Defund RIOC Public Safety: Common Sense Saves Resources
“I was out twice today before noon,” noted one longtime local resident, last Friday. “The lack of visible PSD remains staggering.”
Noteworthy is PSD’s routine invisibility.
You find officers overseeing entry to the farmers market on Saturday, and once in a great while, they tape notices on kiosks or — rarely — hand out flyers.
But what I call a “trifecta” is more normal. That is, during daily walks around Roosevelt Island, looking for things to report, listening, I often go three straight days without seeing a single officer. In a car or outside of one.
For evidence, you don’t have to wander around town for an hour or more as I do. Just read Public Safety’s monthly reports. Compiled for board meetings, they list all PSD activities.
May’s report, this year, shows 167 “incidents,” three per PSD employee.
And that covers 31 Days. One reportable “incident” for each every ten days. But it’s worse than that.
What’s considered an “incident” is instructive.
That is, well over half of May’s incidents, 91 in total, were either standing by while EMT’s responded to calls on the Island or handling lost and found.
PSD payroll: 55 individuals. Budget: Approximately $4 million, roughly 12% of RIOC’s total, the majority collected from residents without consent.
Budget Crunch Perspective
Although it’s long been clear that PSD is wildly overstaffed, an example of RIOC’s wasteful spending, the best reason for defunding RIOC Public Safety is common sense. The realities of 2020 demand it.
As acting president/CEO Shelton J. Haynes reported at June’s RIOC board meeting, the state agency faces big shortfalls in the shadow of COVID-19.
Tram ridership is down, costing hundreds of thousands per month, and investment income vanished as COVID-19 arrived.
Add to that the stress of escalating insurance costs, and the message is clear: RIOC needs to find savings and fast.
What one local observer calls, “spending like a drunken sailor,” should’ve stopped sooner, but now it must. RIOC’s drowsy and drifty board must assume more responsibility for public money they let be tossed around like candy wrappers for years.
It’s Just Common Sense: Defund RIOC PSD
Unless you consider negligence a form of misconduct, there’s no cause to criticize PSD. Officers are routinely polite and well liked, and it’s leadership with Chief Kevin Brown is capable.
But there’s just too much of nothing.
A staff of 55 and a $4 million budget made little sense in the best of times, although an inattentive board always nods approval. In the worst of times, it’s ridiculous.
RIOC must also cut elsewhere, but management can seize the moment and honor legitimate needs by reducing obvious excess.
PSD’s officers appear well-trained, but they don’t have enough to do.
And when there’s a chance to act effectively, for whatever mysterious reason, they don’t.
Defund RIOC Public Safety and move on. The time is right for change.