The Republican-controlled Nassau County legislature voted 10-9 along party lines Monday to approve a controversial plan that cuts the number of police precincts from eight to four, despite pleas from Democratic lawmakers and union leaders to push the vote off for another week in order to learn more details about the plan.
County Executive Ed Mangano proposed the plan that he said would save $20 million by cutting 100 police jobs, helping close a $310 million budget gap, and would maintain the current number of patrols. Critics argued that the anticipated negative impact on public safety is not worth the savings and that the legislature should not vote on a plan that is still subject to negotiation between the police unions and the Republican administration.
“People should understand that there is no joy or pleasure in this,” said Legis. Francis X. Becker (R-Lynbrook) while explaining his vote as some in the packed legislative chamber began chanting, “Just vote no!”
Under the so-called Police Efficiency Initiative, the second and eighth precincts will merge, as will the third and sixth, fourth and fifth, and seventh and first. The Seventh Precinct in Seaford will be renamed the First Precinct.
The police station houses in the eliminated precincts—including the eighth in Farmingdale, sixth in Manhasset, fifth in Elmont and first in Baldwin—will become “community policing centers” with smaller staffs.
“None of the officers will be moved, we want to keep them right where they are,” said Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Dale, referring to the beat cops assigned to the current 177 patrol posts countywide. Dale was also confirmed as police commissioner earlier in the same meeting.
“This is a win-win for residents as it results in more safety and not more taxes,” Mangano said in a statement, touting the 48 new Problem Oriented Police officer positions that will be created under the plan. Democrats questioned whether those 48 officers will be on the street or if they’ll be tasked with desk duty in the new community centers.
“This is all going downhill real fast,” said James Carver, president of the Nassau Police Benevolent Association—the union that represents the department’s patrol officers—to the legislature. He asked the panel to wait one more week while he and other police union leaders negotiated with Mangano over the details of the plan.
“It seems to me this plan is ever-changing, even at the 11th hour,” said Minority Leaders Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead), who attempted to have the plan tabled until the late-breaking details could be put in writing.
But the Republican leadership was not swayed—including Legis. Joseph Belesi (R-Farmingdale), a former Nassau police sergeant who was rumored to be a swing vote on the issue.
“Those discussions have nothing to do with the plan that is before us,” said Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa), referring to the ongoing talks between the unions and the administration about staffing the community centers.
The Democratic minority later at the same meeting withheld the votes needed for the legislature to approve borrowing to pay for early retirement incentives until they learn more about the plan. The legislature needs at least 13 votes to approve the bonding needed to fund the buyouts for the nearly 100 police being cut under the precinct plan.
The incentive plan will come up for a vote again before the full legislature’s next meeting in two weeks. Members of the public who spoke before the panel on the precinct plan were all in opposition.
“It seems to defy logic to me how cutting the precincts in half will provide the same kind of service from police,” said Naomi Feldheim, a former teacher from Great Neck. She then warned of a voter revolt, reiterating the oft-repeated rally cry, “We will remember in November.”