NYPD still racking up overtime and mum on social media posts

The New York City Council criticized police leaders for fiscal mismanagement and “unprofessional” posts.

From left, NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters Michael Gerber, Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey and Commissioner Edward Caban

From left, NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters Michael Gerber, Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey and Commissioner Edward Caban John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

New York City Police Department top brass clammed up about police leaders’ use of social media at a New York City Council hearing on Thursday focused on police spending, including its public relations and ballooning overtime budget.

An oversight hearing on the department’s latest proposed spending plan cast a spotlight on the department’s total overtime spending of $788 million so far in the current fiscal year. The hearing also focused on a recent trend of acerbic, and in some cases inaccurate, social media posts by top police officials, which Council Speaker Adrienne Adams called “dangerous” and “unethical.”

In April, Mayor Eric Adams released the $111.6 billion executive plan for the city’s fiscal year 2025, which begins July 1. The budget proposal included $5.83 billion for the police department, a $72 million increase from the preliminary financial plan released in January and roughly $22 million over the current year’s adopted budget. The April executive plan also included an additional $160 million to cover overtime costs for uniformed members in the current fiscal year, bringing the NYPD’s overtime budget to $960.9 million, about 16% of the agency’s total budget.

“Repeated overspending beyond the allocated budget raises concerns about agency and fiscal management and accurate budgeting,” Speaker Adams told NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban and other top brass in the council chamber.

At a preliminary budget hearing earlier this year, department leaders highlighted ways they were holding supervisors accountable for excessive use of overtime. “Yet the executive budget continues the pattern of adding substantial funds for unbudgeted overtime,” Adams said.

Department leaders blamed the spiraling costs on an increase in “unplanned events,” including the security circus surrounding the criminal trial of former President Donald Trump in lower Manhattan and college campus protests against the war in Gaza.

“We’ve been saving money on a lot of our planned events,” said Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey, referring to situations like New Year’s Eve, the Jewish High Holy Days and the clearing of street vendors from the Brooklyn Bridge, in which police leaders knew overtime spending was likely.

“I think our biggest challenge is the unplanned events, where we’re spending a lot more money,” Maddrey told the council. “It’s been a challenge, especially since Oct. 7.”

In the two-and-a-half weeks since student demonstrators set up encampments at Columbia University and other campuses, the NYPD has spent more than $6 million in overtime related to policing protests, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Management and Budget Deirdre Snyder said. The department spent $7 million covering protests last year, compared to $53 million in total so far this year, she said. According to Maddrey, the NYPD deployed 600 to 700 officers to respond solely to the occupation of Columbia’s Hamilton Hall. In recent weeks, the NYPD has responded to a number of campus protests and has arrested hundreds of students and other activists.

Those protest responses have been accompanied by a spate of social media posts on X from official police accounts lambasting protestors, City Council members and members of the media. In one since-deleted post, Chief of Patrol John Chell, who did not attend the hearing, excoriated Council Member Tiffany Cabán before stating, “Remember everyone, if you want change, seek the change you want by getting involved. Then you know what to do…”

“These posts can often convey inaccurate or misleading information and could potentially incite threats of violence,” Adams said.

“This conduct is dangerous, unethical, unprofessional because included in the department’s mission is to preserve peace, protect the people, and reduce fear,” she said. Of Chell’s now-deleted post, she said it “seems to be conveying a political message,” a prohibited threshold under city law. “While you may be speaking to one group of New Yorkers, you are indeed alienating other New Yorkers whose trust the department’s officers need to help keep our city safe.”

Police leaders at the hearing repeatedly refused to comment on the social media post or the department’s broader social media policy, citing deference to the “process” of a Department of Investigation probe into the posts.

“At this time, I cannot comment,” Commissioner Caban said.

“We are fully cooperative with that investigation and I think it’s critical that the investigation be allowed to play out,” said Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters Michael Gerber of the Department of Investigation’s work.

Police brass refused to say whether Chell’s post was reviewed by anyone else in the department or whether he was asked to delete it. Mayor Adams has expressed support for officers to have “a right to an opinion,” when asked about Chell’s and others’ posts in recent months.

According to police leaders, the NYPD employs 86 communications specialists, including seven people in the Creative Services Unit, which is responsible for editing promotional videos for the department.

“What is being done to prohibit that (type of posting) or stop it from happening to cause any more harm to those that are being targeted and/or spoken about as we sit here today,” Speaker Adams said. “I am disappointed in your responses.”

Council Member Tiffany Cabán (of no relation to the police commissioner), a former public defender and outspoken critic of the NYPD who was the target of one of Chell’s posts, did not mince words, saying the department’s ducking of questions was bogus. “Deputy Commissioner Gerber, lawyer to lawyer … you could and you should have answered. You chose not to and so my request is that that policy be sent to the council,” she said.