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Letter: Open Letter to County Executive on Proposed Community Policing Plan

(This letter was sent to County Executive Edward Mangano and to this paper for publication.)

This letter is being submitted to you on behalf of the Council of Greater Manhasset Civic Associations (Greater Council), comprising the leadership of civic organizations in the Manhasset area, including the participation from the incorporated villages and other prominent community organizations, as reflected below.

Our members have reviewed information currently available to the public and attended the hearings and/or briefings offered to explain the proposed Community Policing Plan (the “Plan”) to reorganize the Nassau County Police Department (“NCPD”). For the majority of specific detail questions at said briefings, the County Executive’s office response has too frequently been that details are still being formulated and are fluid as days pass. The resounding concern is that the Plan moves police supervision and leadership farther from the residents they serve in precincts planned for conversion to Community Policing Centers, utilizing NCPD personnel on restricted duties staffed at two per Center, 24/7.

Based on the current lack of substantive Plan details, and information currently available, it is far too premature to even consider enacting the Plan as presented. Few, and at times conflicting, details of the current Plan have been documented and uniformly released to the public. A briefing normally starts with a fact sheet and plan details, which were unavailable at some briefings. A morning briefing on 2/8/12 to Mayors reported current police staffing at 2,500, yet the same day evening briefing to civics reported the same as 2,379, a difference of 122. Thus on the same day the data at County Executive briefings wrongly suggests the County has already achieved its target reduction of 108 positions. Policing is a great concern to Nassau County residents not to be taken lightly. It is unconscionable to expect support for such substantial change when the plan details have not been fully determined. Upon being questioned at the civic meeting I attended, the Deputy Police Commissioner hit the nail on the head in response to a detailed question raised … “Our biggest fear and concern is whether the Commanding Officer at the new expanded precincts will be able to control its entire Precinct”. This mirrors the civic fear that the County Executive has released this plan prematurely without sufficient details to assure it success. The community expects the County Executive to first fully develop and document the plan, engage discussion and disseminate Plan changes as they are refined, and to clearly demonstrate how NCPD can administer and police these markedly larger precinct areas. Without these important details, it is impossible to make an informed decision as to the merits of the Plan. To then plan a legislative vote on Feb 27, 2012 is simply promulgating public fear and great concern.

 Notwithstanding these above rudimentary concerns, there are clear positive aspects of the Plan, including (1) policing technology upgrades for greater NCPD administrative efficiency while improving its administrative services to residents, and (2) the reinstatement of the Problem Oriented Policing (PO) units that both should be advanced without haste, irrespective of whether or not this entire Plan is implemented. Holding such well supported changes hostage to the legislative consideration of the entire Plan scheduled is ill conceived.

 For reasons stated above, the Greater Council cannot support the Plan as proposed in its current form and urge all legislators to reject the plan if an imminent vote on the plan is advanced. We further urge you to forego any imminent vote on the Plan until such time as all of the details can be properly vetted and presented to the public, giving all stakeholders ample opportunity to study the Plan and comment. Moreover, we recommend that, given that Policing is a Number 1 priority County service to its residents, once the county has more fully developed a viable Plan that meets the approval of its residents, that such Plan be implemented on a pilot basis to confirm the merits and correct any negative consequences before it is instituted county wide.

Richard J Bentley, President
Council of Greater Manhasset
Civic Associations