Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 17 February 2012 00:00
An overflow audience packed into the Nassau County Legislative chambers on Monday, Feb.13 as that body held a public hearing on a proposal to close four police precincts in the county and transform them into community policing centers.
The hearing focused on public safety issues. It featured a long presentation by Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Dale who maintained that the plan would not compromise public safety, while noting that certain usages of advanced technologies have helped to reduce crime in the county.
Dale said the consolidation would result in a “more effective and efficient” police department, while also addressing the county’s budget situation. The precincts in question are the First, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Precincts.
Throughout the hearing, Dale and other police spokesmen also maintained that the department would keep its current 177 police car patrol intact.
The acting commissioner also touted the effectiveness of Shot Spotter technology that he said had reduced violent crime, including homicide, rape, assault, and gun-related violence by significant margins in the Uniondale-Roosevelt area where it has been deployed. He said that crime in the county has been reduced by 11 percent overall and the increase in residential burglaries can be attributed to conditions brought about by snowstorms.
For Dale, the point was that technologies and not necessarily stationhouses play a major role in reducing crime. Addressing proposed closures, Dale said that 911 calls in the county go to a call center, whose personnel in turn notify police cars. Such calls don’t go to stationhouses, he said. Dale reiterated that under the proposed changes, there would be “no change in response time” by police in patrol cars.
Dale also defended the introduction of policing centers, claiming that they would be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while remaining available to community members. “Access won’t change,” he said.
In response to questions from Legislator Norma Gonsalves (R. -East Meadow), Acting Deputy Police Commissioner Thomas C. Krumpter said that personnel reductions from the proposed changes would result in 87 sworn-in members of the police force, 13 civilian posts, with 48 positions redeployed at the discretion of local commanders. Dale said this would result in more officers on the street.
On Feb. 6, members of the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) and their supporters held a rally outside the same building to protest the plan. And at the Monday meeting, the PBA and their supporters were out in force again as the large crowd loudly expressed their opposition on numerous occasions.
Also on the same day as the Monday hearing, County Executive Edward I. Mangano released support for the plan from various organizations, including Long Island Tax Reform, the Nassau County Conservative Party, the Long Island Taxpayer Alliance, the Nassau County Tea Party Patriots, and the Nassau County Non-Partisan Tax Revolt Coalition.
At the meeting, the opposition to the proposal was expressed not only concerning Dale’s testimony but also more raucously on the insistence by such Democratic legislators as David Denenberg (D. -Merrick) and Wayne Wink (D. -Roslyn) that the acting police commissioner and not the acting deputy police commissioner answer questions from the minority.
In a briefing with reporters during a break, Denenberg claimed that the plan would, in fact, bring “no savings at all” while at the same time compromising public safety. Denenberg said that savings could come from administrative costs, such as sewage costs.
During his own question period, Denenberg denounced the proposal as a “disgrace” and “the most dramatic change in delivery public services in Nassau County.”
Denenberg further denounced the plan as “the low point of my 12 years in the legislature,” calling the proposed “cuts to public safety” as “completely unacceptable.”
Much of Denenberg’s questioning concerned the elimination of the Heroin Task Force. Dale responded that the task force was a separate identity that had now been combined into the Narcotics Vice Bureau. He added that the bureau had increased from 43 to 49 members, while agreeing with Denenberg about a heroin usage problem in Nassau County.
In response to further questions, Krumpter acknowledged that the plainclothes unit would be removed from five of eight precincts, while adding that there would be no change in the appearance ticketing procedures, pending recommendations from the District Attorney’s office. Krumpter said that under the new plan, there would be 47 supervisors on the police force, but he said that patrolmen, not supervisors were “the backbone” of the force.
The next public hearing will be held on Monday, Feb. 27 at the legislative chambers, located on 1150 Franklin Ave.