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Evolving Nassau County Police Coverage Plan in Face of Local Opposition

The proposal by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano to merge the administrative functions of the 6th and 2nd Police Precincts has been both a moving target and an extremely fluid plan that has undergone many critical changes since it was first leaked to the press on Aug. 6.

At a hastily convened meeting by Supervisor Jon Kaiman at the Town of North Hempstead last Tuesday, local, county and state elected officials and PBA officers and members crowded into town hall to learn the details of the plan from Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey who tried to assure skeptical mayors and county legislators that a reduction and redistribution of personnel resources would not result in a diminution of services to the public.

Confusion reigned as there was no detailed, written plan spelling out the proposed changes. There were two tracks pursued at the meeting simultaneously, one of anger at the way the issue was “sprung on the public” without input from elected officials who represent the affected areas and two, concern and fear that public safety would be radically compromised by siphoning off police power and presence from the 6th Precinct. A number of mayors, specifically from Manor Haven, the Village of Great Neck and Great Neck Plaza, expressed frustration with the current level of service; the mayor of Munsey Park stated an underlying fear that the proposed cut in presence at the 6th might be a prelude to selling off a valuable parcel of property in the future.

Gradually, it became apparent that the $20 million to be saved came from an early incentive retirement program offered by the county.  Top ranking and top paid police officials, some 125, took the deal. If the county does not fill those vacant positions, $20-$22 million would be saved.

The challenge to Commissioner Mulvey was to come up with a way to shuffle and reconfigure remaining staff to keep the same level of community patrols while consolidating or eliminating administrative functions. As the 6th Precinct and the 2nd Precinct, based in Woodbury, are the least busy of all the Nassau County precincts, the plan floated would have moved and combined administrative posts to the 2nd Precinct, including one commanding officer for both to be based in Woodbury and reduced the number of officers on the front desk of the 6th Precinct from three officers to one person.

By Thursday of last week, there were reports that revisions had been made to keep a commanding officer and supervisor at the 6th Precinct and to keep three officers at the desk to handle calls and emergencies that come in night and day. However, there have been no documents released substantiating the verbal reports.

The county executive’s communications director, Brian Nevin, confirmed the staffing changes noted above and said that the county executive’s proposed budget, which will be unveiled on Sept. 15, will detail all the changes to be made. With a Nassau County $286 million deficit looming, the police budget is expected to be pared down by a total of $30 million.

County Legislator Judi Bosworth told the Record, “The plan, as it appeared in Friday’s Newsday edition was significantly different from the plan that was presented by Police Commissioner Mulvey on Tuesday. I have yet to see anything in writing and look forward to an analysis of the options. I will continue to advocate for staffing levels to assure excellent police protection for residents of the 6th Precinct and all of Nassau County.”

In spite of fears, frustrations and ire expressed at the meeting, there was a consensus that Commissioner Mulvey is a highly respected leader coming from a background of solid community policing and that he is trusted to strive to maintain the force needed to preserve public safety.

Toward the end of the meeting, the Record asked him about the morale situation in the police precincts with officers currently holding desk jobs having to return to the streets. Commissioner Mulvey said, “It is never a happy day when work levels are reduced.”