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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.

Flower Hill Mayor Charles Weiss provided a statement on the threatened consolidation of the Sixth Precinct: “As Mayor of Flower Hill, my role is to act in the best interests of the residents of my village.  That includes helping to make sure that issues of concern to them are fully aired, that the residents are informed and have the opportunity to provide feedback on those issues that will directly impact their quality of life.

“I applaud Supervisor Kaiman and Legislators Wink and Bosworth for reacting so quickly and so appropriately to this threat to the security and well-being of the residents of my village and all of those who reside in the 6th Precinct.  The county executive’s attempt to eliminate the 6th Precinct by fiat hearkens back to the bad old days when the Republican Party bosses ran Nassau County.  Those days are gone, hopefully forever.  People are tired of local, state and national policy being dictated by partisan politics.

“Nobody wants to spend public money needlessly and everyone is tired of paying some of the highest property taxes in the country.  Cutbacks are needed and some of them will undoubtedly be painful; however, it seems absurd to believe that the only way that administrative jobs can be eliminated and $20 million saved is to eliminate the 6th precinct.  Of all the things that the County provides, surely police protection and a sense of security and well-being among its citizens must be at the very top of the list and, therefore, the last place to make a drastic change such as this.

“In any event, no plan of this magnitude should be conceived, much less executed without a full public airing and a great deal of sunshine.  I urge the county executive to reconsider his egregious decision.”

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 Anton Community Newspapers, “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, Anton Community Newspapers 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.”