Nassau County police brass are defending a proposal to close two of the department’s eight station houses in a historic precinct realignment designed to help the cash-strapped county close a projected $300 million budget gap next year.
The idea will save $15 million annually, Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter testified before the county legislature’s public safety hearing Wednesday. Some lawmakers balked at being asked to approve a budget without knowing which station houses will be shuttered—or if any police will be laid off.
“There are no easy decisions in this budget,” Krumpter said. Eighty one desk jobs—mostly sworn officers and eight civilians—would be eliminated if the proposal went through, but layoffs would not be needed when factoring the annual attrition rate of about 100 officers, he said.
Legislators, who must pass a county budget by Oct. 30, questioned whether that attrition rate was realistic after early retirement incentives were recently enacted. At least one Republican legislator joined with Democrats in vowing not to approve a budget that could lead to police layoffs.
“I’m never going to jeopardize public safety by laying off cops,” said Legis. Joe Belesi (R-Farmingdale), a retired Nassau County police sergeant. “That’s not going to happen.”
Krumpter said he could not reveal which precincts would be eliminated because the closures were still being studied, then frustrated lawmakers by insisting he was certain the unfinalized plan would not require police layoffs.
“It’s an incredible and unprecedented move to close these precincts,” said Legis. Joseph Scannell (D-Baldwin). “The people of Nassau County are upset and you’re not giving us the information.”
County Executive Ed Mangano first floated the controversial proposal of consolidating the Sixth and Second precincts on the North Shore last year. He reintroduced the latest version of that plan last month when announcing a second round of county employee layoffs and other cuts.
A formal proposal would be submitted to the legislature at a later date with the goal of consolidating the precincts during the second half of next year, Krumpter said. He ruled out from closure the Third Precinct in Williston Park, the newest and largest station house, and the soon-to-be replaced First Precinct in Baldwin.
The Nassau Police Benevolent Association, the union that represents the department’s patrol officers, blasted the idea as playing politics with public safety.
“Do not put that problem on our shoulders,” said James Carver, the PBA president. “We did not cause the problem.”
Krumpter said the redrawn precinct lines will result in a more even distribution of workload and disputed assertions it will increase response times. He said the number of patrol cars on the street will remain the same.
Once accident reports are made available online sometime next year, the public will be even less likely to visit their local police precinct, Krumpter said. Technological advancements have also made officers less reliant on their station houses, aside from booking arrests, he added.
“The reality is this will be the most major restructuring of this police department in 40 years,” Krumpter said.
But the proposal’s significance was not lost on legislators skeptical of its lack of details or certainty.
“To me, it’s clear that we’re risking layoffs in this budget,” said Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick). “I can’t be a part of this.”