Hundreds of critics opposing a controversial plan to halve the number of Nassau County police precincts packed the county legislative chamber Monday during a rowdy public hearing on the proposal as police brass released new details.
The plan would convert four of the eight police precincts into “community policing centers” and reorganize the precinct map for the remaining four full-service stationhouses while maintaining the current 177 patrol cars on the streets at any given time. About 100 administrative positions—13 civilian and the rest police officers and supervisors—would be cut either through attrition or layoffs.
“The only people who will notice the change are the criminals,” Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Dale told the legislature’s public safety committee, insisting that the plan will not impact public safety. “The realignment will allow us to address the current fiscal crisis facing the county and the Nassau County Police Department.”
Republican County Executive Ed Mangano has said the plan would save $20 million at a time the administration has been trying to fill a $300 million budget gap after a state watchdog declared a fiscal crisis last year. His proposal was approved 4-3 along party lines by the public safety committee in the GOP-controlled legislature while Democratic lawmakers questioned whether those savings would be realized this year.
“The details seem to change daily, if not hourly, since this was first laid out,” said Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick). “The numbers don’t add up and to compromise public safety without any measurable savings makes no sense at all.”
Legis. Joseph Scannell (D-Baldwin), a former prosecutor, said he is concerned that the proposal has cast doubt on a long-sought multi-million-dollar plan to rebuild the aging First Precinct stationhouse.
“This is the worst piece of legislation that this legislature has had before it,” he said.
Legis. Joseph Belesi (R-Farmingdale), a former Nassau police sergeant, was heckled by police officers in the audience while trying to explain why he voted to move the plan out of committee.
“I’m not voting for the party,” he said.
The hearing followed a rally against the proposal outside the Theodore Roosevelt Executive & Legislative Building in Mineola. A member of the Elmont community concerned about the Fifth Precinct stationhouse being downgraded submitted a petition with more than 750 signatures of those reportedly opposed to the plan.
“Perception is everything these days,” said David Sabatino of Valley Stream. “The perception is the criminals are winning.”
The plan is expected to be voted on by the full legislature at their next meeting on Feb. 27. If approved, it would take through the end of 2012 to implement.
“I felt like a crew member on the Italian cruise ship and my captain is saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to get closer to land, it’s a good thing,’” said Glen Ciccone, president of the Nassau Detectives Association, referring to last month’s deadly Costa Concordia disaster. “This plan is completely and utterly insane.”