THE WAR WITHIN
John Kouril was a detective in the Third Squad for 15 years. When informed of the current staffing levels at his alma mater, he was shocked that any detective squad could function under those conditions.
“It is absurd!” he tells the Press. He says he heard that one detective was assigned two home invasions within two days. “It would be impossible for him to investigate it properly. If the administration says they can, they are lying.”
Kouril explains that when he worked in the squad, detectives were assigned 150 warrants in addition to their own caseload. Under the present system, he’s sure that number has climbed.
“With only three detectives, there would be no way for them to go out and find these people,” he stresses.
“Detectives are working nonstop. They are fatigued,” agreed Nassau Detectives’ Association President Ciccone, explaining that the current caseload for detectives “is getting bigger and bigger. Supervisors say, ‘Close out cases.’ So they say, ‘Well, I have not discovered any other evidence, I didn’t have the time to get evidence and I don’t have the ability.’”
Acting Police Commissioner Krumpter took over the reigns of the department in the middle of the current financial crisis. Appointed by Mangano in April to replace former Nassau Police Commissioner Mulvey, Krumpter was charged with cutting millions from the police budget, not an easy task for anyone in command. Krumpter will be replaced next month by Town of Oyster Bay resident and former New York Police Department Chief of Personnel Thomas Dale. He defends the current staffing levels, explaining that management in the department decides what the minimum level of staffing should be in each precinct.
“There was a point in time, not too long ago, where we would have had less than two or less than three working; and up until this year, we actually raised it in the Fifth Squad from two to three [detectives],” he says. “If we have something going on, we would have no problem holding over-the-day tours. We frequently hold over-the-night tours to be able to investigate different issues.”
Ciccone and other police union heads argue that, minimum staffing or not, the current number is “not adequate for detectives to perform their duties.”
Prior to 2001, the detective division had close to 500 members. Ciccone said in 2001 that number fell to 403. As the numbers continued to fall, many on the job warned that there would be more crimes unsolved, fewer arrests and fewer criminals behind bars. Now, 10 years later, the number has shrunk to only 368, and the dire predictions appear to be coming true.
One example Ciccone cites is the Nassau County Heroin Task Force. At its much publicized conception in January, 2009, it had 20 members. Now there are two. The result, according to Ciccone, is clear.
In 2003, prior to the task force, there were 104 heroin-related arrests; from 2004 to 2008 the arrests averaged 143 a year, according to Ciccone. Arrests jumped to 290 following the creation of the task force. They increased to 432 in 2010. Mangano then quietly disbanded the unit, and the arrests dropped to 211 by the end of November, says Ciccone, maintaining that it’s not because heroin mysteriously disappeared; there were just no cops out there to make the arrests.
“The heroin epidemic does not expire on a certain date, and it continues to plague Nassau County,” he stresses. “This is not a union issue; this is a quality of life issue for the residents of Nassau County.”
Despite the drastic cut in the number of detectives, Ciccone says that the county executive is demanding even more from those officers who remain. “If the county executive gets his demands,” Ciccone explains, “it would cost each detective over $30,000 per year, each year for the next four years.” This requirement, he says, would result in a massive retirement from the police department. “What is going to happen with public safety if everybody with experience flees? All of the seasoned experienced people will flee.”
Ciccone says $12 million is slated to come from the detective division.
One of the well-known modern concepts of law enforcement, first coined in 1982 by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in an article published in the Atlantic Monthly, is known as the “Broken Windows” theory. It predicts that if lesser crimes such as graffiti and vandalism are not stopped in a community, then those crimes will escalate into something more serious. If left unchecked, neighborhoods eventually decrease in value, and law-abiding citizens are forced to move out. If the lesser crimes are dealt with, however, the theory dictates that further low-level crimes and resulting major crimes will be avoided. Personnel are required for the theory to work in practice.
The last time the department hired was in December 2008, when the total number of personnel was 2,725, says Carver. There are now only 2,393 members of the police department; the lowest staffing level of officers in more than 60 years. At that time, Nassau County had approximately 700,000 people, about half of Nassau’s present 1.3 million population. Besides doubling the population, the county now also has more commercial growth and more malls.
“We are not proactive in addressing the quality of life issues and the low-level crimes,” Carver says, adding that the units responsible to monitor these crimes were diminished in number, or “in some cases totally eliminated.”
Krumpter insists that policing has changed, and a smaller police force can be effective. The use of computers has also modernized the department, he says.
“You had hundreds and hundreds of people that were dedicated to foot posts; we don’t have that,” he explains. “What you have to also take into consideration is the number of civilian employees that we have is far greater.”
Carver disagrees, firing back: “There have been no dedicated foot posts in over 20 years in Nassau County, and the civilianization of police positions was mostly clerical in nature. Not one civilian has taken over the patrol responsibility that police officers, detective and supervisors do on a day-in and day-out basis.”