NYPD overtime costs hit record high amid staffing crunch

NYPD overtime costs are projected to hit $740 million this fiscal year — nearly double the police agency's extra-duty budget and the highest level in a decade.
New York City police

The New York City Police Department is racking up record levels of overtime costs amid chronic staffing shortages, according to a scathing new report by the city's financial watchdog.

The report by City Comptroller Brad Lander found NYPD overtime costs are projected to hit $740 million this fiscal year — nearly double the police agency's extra-duty budget and the highest level in a decade. The agency has already blown through the $374 million approved for overtime, with another four months still remaining in the 2023 fiscal year.

Lander said NYPD overtime costs have been rising for years, but there are no "serious efforts either to rein in this spending or to more honestly reflect expectations in the budget."

"Over the past decade, NYPD overtime has grown without any regard for what’s in the budget agreed upon by the mayor and the city council – and with no accountability for overspending each year by hundreds of millions of dollars," he said in a statement.

Lander faulted the city for its practice of under-budgeting overtime expenses in the budget adopted each June, saying it "has not been a successful tool" for controlling those costs.

Between fiscal years 2013 and 2021, actual overtime costs averaged 39% higher than were budgeted, according to the report. In the previous fiscal year, the city's actual overtime costs of $2.22 billion were almost double the adopted budget, the report noted.

“The persistent gap between budgeted overtime and actual overtime spending is neither helpful for agency planning nor cost effective for the City of New York," he wrote. "Simply budgeting less for overtime has not proven to be an effective tool for controlling overtime costs, without any accountability for agencies that exceed their budgets."

During a budget hearing Monday, NYC Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell defended the overtime costs, which he attributed to a dwindling headcount of uniformed officers.

He told council members the increased spending was necessary to bridge the gaps in hiring, but acknowledged it's "unsustainable" in the long term.

The NYPD’s staffing level was 34,017 — down nearly 900 from last year, according to the comptroller’s report. The staffing has fallen by more than 2,500 from a peak in 2019, when the agency had 36,717 uniformed officers on staff, the report noted.

But Lander's report suggested the NYPD's overtime spending is likely "driven less by vacancies or the need for more staff" than rather by "unplanned and planned events."

He pointed out that despite a "significant increase in headcount" between fiscal years 2015 and 2019, the NYPD’s overtime costs for uniformed employees remained relatively stable, averaging $592 million annually.

"This trend becomes more muddled in recent fiscal years as other factors significantly drove overtime usage, including protests after the killing of George Floyd and Covid-19 lockdowns, while headcount declined through the pandemic," he wrote.

In FY 2020, the NYPD spent $145.7 million in their response to the protests following the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, which the agency called "anti-police protests."

Another factor is the Big Apple's response to rising crime by putting more cops on the streets, the comptroller's report noted. Major felony crimes increased more than 25% citywide and about 50% within the subway system when compared to FY 2021, the report noted. In response, the NYPD increased its presence, particularly in subway stations.

Overall, the report noted New York City’s overtime expenditures increased over the last decade by more than $700 million, or 52.5%, from $1.46 billion in fiscal year 2013 to $2.22 billion in the previous fiscal year.

Lander said the city "keeps budgeting as though this increase never happened" with the NYPD accounting for the largest share of budget-busting overtime costs.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams unveiled a nearly $103 billion budget proposal in January that calls for cutting funding for most city agencies. Under the Democrat's spending plan, which requires city council approval, the NYPD would see its budget cut from $5.59 billion to $5.44 billion.