Police scandals are pols' responsibility

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano speaks beside Nassau

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano speaks beside Nassau County Police Department First Deputy Commissioner Thomas C. Krumpter, left, at the Nassau County Public Safety Center in Westbury, during a press conference regarding a sting operation that resulted in the arrests of contractors who scammed superstorm Sandy victims. (June 27, 2013) (Credit: Barry Sloan)

Law-enforcement scandals and controversies are roiling the top echelons of the region's governments -- and creating potential fodder for campaign debate.

Last week, Newsday published contents of a Nassau police internal affairs report detailing serious irregularities in the way authorities handled an allegedly unlawful 2011 shooting by an off-duty cop who had been drinking with an officer friend.

Five days later, GOP County Executive Edward Mangano, who's seeking re-election, had something public to say: Commissioner Thomas Dale will "apply the appropriate discipline as he sees fit." When? Well, administration officials also say issuing disciplinary decisions before the civil trial -- in which shooting victim Thomas Moroughan is suing -- would open the county to "significant liability."


INTERACTIVE: See a reconstruction of the night based on official documents


Mangano's predecessor Thomas Suozzi, running for his old job, declined to discuss specifics. "But," he said, "I find it strange there have been so many tragic incidents, scandals and questionable activities raised in this police department in the past three years. It is historically one the most highly regarded departments in America, and something's wrong." Suozzi's Democratic primary rival, Adam Haber, has yet to comment.

Undoubtedly, police union support is on several pols' minds.

Mangano, meanwhile, noted the 2011 shooting, in Huntington Station, "remains under the jurisdiction of the Suffolk County district attorney." But Police Officer Anthony DiLeonardo wasn't criminally charged and remains on the job. Now, DA Thomas Spota talks of a "renewed" effort to get Moroughan to cooperate in a probe.

Separately, a state correction panel slammed Spota's office and other agencies -- for allegedly failing to adequately probe a Lindenhurst man's death in custody. Spota, due to seek re-election this year, called that report "inaccurate and baseless."

With federal officials investigating Suffolk police chief James Burke, second-year Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone expressed support for Burke (through the PD), while saying his office will cooperate with the investigation. Eventually Bellone will have to be more expansive.

In New York City, stop-and-frisk policies are a flashpoint in the race to succeed term-limited Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

A common thread: Police agencies may seem like their own branches of government, but elected officials are responsible for them. That's just how the American system is supposed to work.