Written by Wendy Karpel Kreitzman and Karen Gellender Friday, 13 August 2010 00:00
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano is proposing to consolidate administrative functions of the Sixth and the Second Police Precincts and move the Sixth Precinct headquarters to the Second Precinct location in Woodbury. The county executive says that the plan would save over $20 million and would not diminish police service. However, many local public officials are firm in their view that residents would suffer. Additionally, there is still the question as to whether or not Mr. Mangano can order this consolidation without approval of the Nassau County Legislature.
In a lengthy conversation with Anton Community Newspapers, Mr. Mangano said that he is working to decrease the county’s $286 million deficit. So far, he said he has reduced this deficit by $39 million, but “more needs to be done … it’s time to fix structural problems … and we can save by consolidating management and duplications.” The goal is to “maintain services and reduce costs,” he said.
According to Mr. Mangano, his proposal, which includes 125 fewer police officers (achieved by not replacing retiring police officers), will not affect police service in the Sixth Precinct. He says that “residents will see no change” in regard to “policing” and patrol cars. The Sixth Precinct will remain the Sixth Precinct, serving the same residents. The Sixth Precinct office on Community Drive in Manhasset will remain, still staffed with police.
The current Sixth Precinct location will see “the same level of police at the station,” according to the county executive, and the station will still have an ambulance service, refueling for police vehicles, offices where residents and public officials can meet with police officers, and walk-in services such as finger-printing. Commanding officers will still be available at the Sixth Precinct location and a patrol supervisor will be on duty 24/7. The Sixth Precinct will also still have communication dispatchers and the same detectives will still report to duty and patrol the local streets. “Our highest priority is maintaining the same policing,” Mr. Mangano said.
However, the administrative functions of the Sixth Precinct will move to the Woodbury location of the Second Precinct. Mr. Mangano said that the “higher ranking” police officers, the administrators, are the ones who will move to Woodbury and the administrative jobs are the ones that will be consolidated. He stated that the police caseloads to be handled in Woodbury for the two precincts “would still be less in this area than for the 1st, 3rd or 5th precincts.”
Mr. Mangano said that the story of the consolidation “leaked” out last Friday. He had not wanted to release the proposal until September, “when people are back from vacation.” The proposal is part of the county executive’s 2011 budget initiative and “not a finished plan.”
When asked about informing the public, Mr. Mangano said that he will have public discussions. As for the Nassau County Legislature, some legislators are firm in their belief that this consolidation cannot take place without a vote of approval from the legislature. Mr. Mangano stated that he does “not want to cut out legislators.” He said that he will be “responsive and open.”
Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey, speaking to Anton Community Newspapers along with the county executive, said that the county executive’s plan to consolidate the Sixth and Second precincts would actually “put people back out on the streets.” Commissioner Mulvey said that there would be less administrative work, “less desk duty,” and that the Second Precinct would “double up … and still have less work than other precincts.”
Stating that “big cuts start at the top,” Commissioner Mulvey said that he “does not want to jeopardize public safety” and that the consolidation “will not jeopardize response time.” He said that out of all of the options “this makes the most sense.”
Conversely, Police Benevolent Association President James Carver told Anton Newspapers that the PBA is “vehemently opposed to the proposal to consolidate the precincts” because the group thinks that it would have a negative impact on services. He added that to have a skeleton crew at the Sixth Precinct would diminish the role of a police station as a “safe haven.” When asked if he or anyone from the PBA had had any input into the decision, he said that they were informed about the decision at a meeting of three precincts and the county executive. Mr. Carver said, “We found out when Newsday found out…we were sandbagged.”
Mr. Carver did note that former County Executive Thomas Suozzi had proposed condensing eight precincts into five precincts several years ago and he said that at the time there was a legal determination that the county executive could not do such a thing without the approval of the county legislature.
Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Venditto took a tone of cautious optimism concerning the merger. “Our County Executive, Ed Mangano, should be commended for his continuing efforts to reduce spending and save taxpayer money. The proposed merger of two police precincts has merit, so long as the safety of residents in both the Second and Sixth Precincts would not be compromised in any manner whatsoever. The Nassau County Police Department is second to none. A visible police presence and quick response times by both patrol cars and ambulances, alike, is critical to the communities served by these two precincts, and anything that would negatively impact those services would not be acceptable,” Venditto said in a prepared statement.
Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs was more critical of the plan, more specifically the lack of communication from Mangano about its particulars. “Residents in the 6th Precinct District are vitally concerned about losing the services they have come to expect from their precinct. Those of us in the 2nd Precinct will not be losing the precinct but I am concerned the precinct will be overloaded with more work and I am concerned about any loss of protection to the health, safety and welfare of the residents,” said Jacobs.
“I have written to the Office of Legislative Budget Review (OLBR) for a detailed analysis of this idea which has been floated. I am waiting for that report. To date, there has not been any analytical report provided,” the Legislator continued.
In her statement, Jacobs emphasized that the only way the $20,000,000 would be saved “if that, in fact, turns out to be the number,” will be from the early retirement of 125 officers, not the combined precincts, and that the OLBR analysis is necessary to provide clarification on this point.
“Once again, lack of communication still leaves us with unanswered questions and concerns,” Jacobs concluded.