Right-Sizing RIOC Now: Cut Bloated Public Safety Staffing

Right-Sizing RIOC Now: Cut Bloated Public Safety Staffing

The common sense cutting of Public Safety staffing has nothing to do with “defunding” the police. Public Safety Officers are not police. We already pay for that in city taxes. But they are an inexcusable drain on Roosevelt Islanders’ personal resources, picking pockets to the tune of $4 million every year. Exaggeration? Let’s take a look at their own numbers.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

With some exceptions, like the assault on a female delivery driver by three male officers in May, Public safety staffing is generally pleasant, if remote, and nothing to worry about. The problem is that they don’t have enough to do.

The call for cutbacks in the force is mostly about badly managed budgeting and a creepy kind of corruption seen everywhere in New York State.

In the Details

Roosevelt Islanders are forced to pay double for public safety. Like all city residents, we cough up local taxes that fund city agencies, including NYPD. And like all city residents, we get protection from them.

Entrance, Swift COVID-19 Rapid Testing site.
In 2021, PSD assigned a uniformed officer as a barker for the Swift Emergency Medical Rapid Testing Site because not enough people came on their own. That’s public safety?

But what’s different on Roosevelt Island is that RIOC, without our consent, gobbles up an additional $4 million plus just for PSD. As the numbers will show, we’re paying them for next to nothing in public safety improvements. Mostly, we’re paying them for attaching parking tickets to windshields.

Good government ethics went out the window.

But the worst of it is hidden. It’s a creepy corruption poisoning budgets at every level in New York State.

Endemic Corruption

I saw it first when I sold technology licenses and consulting to state government. Every March, before the fiscal year ended, state agencies went into panic mode, desperate to spend every penny allotted in their budgets.

The reason: if they didn’t spend it, they wouldn’t get the money again in the next year’s budget. So, the purchase orders flew, need the services or licenses or not. For those of us in sales, there was a feeding frenzy.

The same thing happens with Public Safety staffing.

As we’ve reported, RIOC stuffs 52 PSD staff members into its annual budget but hires only 42 or fewer. That accounts for nearly three-quarters of a million in tax collections that never get spent on what they are approved for.

And it comes out of Roosevelt Islanders’ pockets. Although RIOC is remote-controlled from Albany, the state does not contribute a dime to operations. That’s mainly covered by ground leases and resident fees with the primary source being those who live and work here.

Who’s defending the highest-taxed community in America against this abuse? Well, nobody. Our elected officials don’t even discuss it.

Public Safety Staffing vs Actual Service

For this analysis, we’ll use the 42 officers actually working, not the 52 fraudulently claimed.

As PSD reports (see below) show, PSD responded to 1,726 “calls for service” through the end of August. That’s an average of 41 per officer over eight months. Or, looked at another way, 5 per officer per month, 1 every six days.

What are they doing the rest of the time?

Although this is jaw-droppingly bizarre by any measure, it gets worse. 51% of those calls are for standing by when EMS ambulances provide services and covering a Lost & Found area.

RIOC’s proposed budget for next year includes over $3 million in salaries for Public Safety Officers. With 42 actually in service, that’s over $71,000 per officer, just in salaries.

What PSD Really Does

Public Safety staffing is mainly devoted to driving revenue into RIOC’s pockets.

Remember those 1,726 service calls for the year through August? Compare that with 3,821 parking tickets.

But another, bone-chilling number tags along: PSD reports only 82 traffic violations for the year.

In other words, Public Safety is far more interested in standing by while EMS works, handling lost and found items, and writing out parking tickets than anything having to do with actual public safety.

Think about this while you watch cars, motorized bikes and scooters, and delivery trucks speed through crosswalks and stop signs in plain view of PSOs who don’t want to get involved.

A conscientious Public Safety Department could easily write 82 traffic violation tickets every day. If they wanted to, but they don’t.

Conclusion

Should Public Safety staffing be reduced? Of course, it should, but unless someone responsible steps in, it won’t. You can rule out anyone in the Haynes administration because executive staffing might be worse.

And the creepy, invisible corruption is like a poison spilled across New York State where some of the highest taxes in the nation fail at delivering anything like the highest results.

But while results are never certain, sunlight is always bad for corruption, even when it’s officially approved.

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