Nearly a decade ago, Nassau County Police’s Third Squad in Williston Park was a hub of activity.
An average of 10 detectives on each shift sorted through mounds of paperwork piled on their desks in a never-ending attempt to prioritize pending cases. The phone rang nonstop. Flashing angry red lights revealed callers on hold. Handcuffed prisoners were ushered into holding cells to wait, sometimes for hours, for a detective to interview them. Witnesses sat patiently, prepared to give their stories, while other detectives trudged in and out of their chaotic headquarters, following up on a countless amount of leads. A sense of frustration enveloped the noisy room. The one common complaint among these officers: They wished they had more time to follow up on the cases assigned to them.
Today it is much different, but not because crimes have disappeared. Workloads have increased while the number of detectives on each shift has slowly been whittled down, not just in the Third, but from an average of 10 to only three in three of the county’s busiest squads and two in the remaining five squads. Despite this reduction, the remaining detectives still handle a flow of hundreds of cases each year, with disturbing results.
Police procedures dictate that on every shift, one detective is designated the “squeal,” meaning they are responsible for any new cases during that time, and another detective is the “stooge,” which means they cannot leave the squad room and must answer incoming calls and process arrests brought into the precinct by the cops. That leaves little or no time for them to follow up on any of the other cases they have been assigned.
Police union heads allege similar scenarios are unfolding in more and more police precincts throughout Nassau—eight in all, soon to be six—and they are sounding the alarm.
A very contentious war has broken out between Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and the county’s five public employee unions: the Civil Service Employees Association Local 830, Sheriff Officers Association, Detectives’ Association, Superior Officers Association and Police Benevolent Association (PBA). Collectively, Mangano is seeking $150 million in concessions to close a projected $310 million 2012 budget gap—demanding $75 million by Dec. 15, another $75 million by Feb. 1 and threatening workforce reductions of more than 400 through layoffs and attrition as well as more than 200 demotions if these benchmarks are not met. Perhaps the most heated of these ongoing clashes is Mangano’s targeting the Nassau Police Department for belt-tightening. Among the highest paid in the nation, this public safety and crime-fighting force is charged with protecting the life and property of 1.3 million tax-paying residents.
The battle lines are drawn. Mangano’s plan calls for $60 million in concessions from the police unions by the aforementioned deadlines, with 43 “administrative positions” on the chopping block if a $30 million reduction is not met by Dec. 15 and an additional round of other undisclosed “labor-saving actions” if the remaining $30 million isn’t realized by Feb. 1, Nassau County’s outgoing Acting Police Commissioner (soon-to-be First Deputy) Thomas Krumpter tells the Press.
Mangano’s Senior Policy Advisor/Communications Director Brian Nevin puts it bluntly:
“There are two rounds,” he says. “This is the first round. Basically the union presidents had the opportunity to come to the table. They haven’t agreed. The first round of layoffs will go to the legislature and will be submitted within the coming weeks for their approval.”
Additionally, as part of his “More Cops on the Streets, Less in the Seats” program, Mangano has demanded the closure of two yet-to-be identified police precincts and the elimination of precinct minimum manning, a practice he calls “archaic” and unique compared to other police departments throughout the country.
The police unions argue that they have already made concessions, and that legally they have a closed contract until 2015. They have agreed to look into alternatives, but only if the county will negotiate.
Police union heads declare the public’s safety is now at risk and the situation will get worse.
“We will pay the piper at one point,” Nassau PBA President James Carver grimly predicts. “Everyone will know no one out there is watching them, and there is no risk, no risk of being found out. Once they find out—crimes will go up.”
As if there hasn’t been enough controversy surrounding the force this year—an ongoing Press investigatory series has exposed a growing scandal surrounding a secretive nonprofit agency actively fundraising within police headquarters, the Nassau County Police Department Foundation (NCPDF) [“Membership Has Its Privileges,” March 31]; non-transparency regarding asset forfeiture funds [“The NCPD Refuses to Show Us the Money,” June 2]; and new insights into the county’s disgraced and shuttered police crime lab [“What A Mess,” July 21]—now an internal investigation is probing the allegation that there has intentionally been fewer tickets written since the budget battle began, implying a concerted effort to give the appearance of an even more bare-boned department than is reality.
Krumpter characterizes it to the Press as an “ongoing review of summons activity within the county.”
“Individual police officers’ activity will be measured against themselves,” he says. “What we are focusing on [is] not quotas or numbers, but their activity related to their historical activity.”
Carver counters that it’s no mystery why there may be a downturn in summonses: “They depleted the plain clothes units, DWI and other enforcement-type units, and they have given those duties to sector cars, which gives them less time to concentrate on things they used to. Police officers on patrol are asked to do more with less, and you are seeing the effects of more with less.”
One astonishing example he shares with the Press took place just a few months ago, in a parking lot swarming with media crews from across the globe, along Jones Beach.
Agents and officers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York State, Suffolk and Nassau police departments—not to mention dive teams, fire, emergency services and medical examiner’s personnel—scoured the brush and sand dunes for additional human remains, victims of the still-on-the-loose Long Island serial killer.
Mangano and Krumpter showed up too, as did members of Nassau’s K-9 unit—which includes cadaver-sniffing dogs being so crucial in the every-second-counts search for bodies.
Unbeknownst to the hordes of cameras and reporters—who were offered a bus tour to snap photos of Nassau’s officers and dogs in action—yet surely known by county officials posing for pictures in the parking lot, the county didn’t have any cadaver dogs. So they paraded around bomb-sniffing dogs for the photo-op instead.
“When they did the Gilgo Beach search that time and they had the dogs down there, it was all a dog-and-pony show,” says Carver. “They’re having the appearance of dogs looking for bodies, that should be cadaver dogs, and we don’t have any.
“‘They just did that for the media,’” he quotes a member of the specialized unit as telling him.
“At that time, we didn’t have any cadaver dogs, and I believe that’s still the case today, that there’s no cadaver dogs,” he continues.
Yet while precincts are marked for closure, and union officials and rank-and-file cops are worrying about the slashes’ potentially disastrous ramifications on Nassau’s public safety, the Press has discovered that a computer system supposed to help police simplify their work has only caused more problems and has actually increased costs to taxpayers, primarily by ballooning overtime. Among other revelations, the Press has also learned that at least one high-ranking police official was being given a substantial raise while the county has been threatening the department with layoffs. Additionally, one member of Mangano’s press office who earns more than $110,000 is actually being paid as a member of the police department.