Written by Carol Frank Friday, 20 August 2010 00:00
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.
Attending the meeting was Cheryl Moran, a trustee for the Village of Roslyn Harbor.
“The village is for consolidation of back office services, assuming that we don’t lose coverage and efficiency,” Ms. Moran told Anton Newspapers.
Representing the Village of East Hills was Trustee Manny Zuckerman. Village officials said they are waiting to see how the county executive and the police commissioner respond to the needs of the various villages that are affected by the 6th Precinct.
Village of East Hills Mayor Michael R. Koblenz expressed his own opposition in a letter to County Executive Edward I. Mangano. Koblenz claimed that a “surge in crime,” especially burglaries, could occur if overall management is “attenuated or depleted.” (See ‘Letters to the Editor,” page 11). Roslyn Estates Mayor Susan Ben-Moshe has also stated to Anton Newspapers that she is against the consolidation plan.
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.
When the plan was first unveiled, Nassau County Legislator Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn) told Anton Newspapers that he believed it would require legislative approval. As with Mayor Koblenz, he also expressed concern that the county “cannot jeopardize the safety of our residents in search of savings that may never materialize.”
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 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.”