911 operators sue Nassau over training

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A union representing about 150 Nassau County 911 operators and supervisors has filed suit against the county, alleging it failed to comply with a 2013 agreement to provide "substantive" classroom training on emergency dispatching procedures, including for hostage situations.

The suit, filed last month by the Civil Service Employees Association, claimed its members were not trained on how to handle hostage situations, such as the 2013 shooting death of a Hofstra University student, because "no such protocol exists."

Nassau officials told union members that "if they continue pressing the issue they would be written up for insubordination," the suit, filed in Nassau Supreme Court in Mineola, said.

County Attorney Carnell Foskey called it "a baseless accusation as the department clearly has specialized training for hostage situations that exceeds New York State law. In fact, employees were trained for hostage situations consistent with departmental policies."

County officials declined to provide a copy of Nassau's hostage protocol.

The suit comes more than a year after Hofstra student Andrea Rebello was accidentally shot and killed by a Nassau police officer during a Uniondale home invasion in which she was held hostage by parolee Dalton Smith, who also was killed.

Police Benevolent Association president James Carver has said the 911 call was never transmitted as a hostage situation and the officer believed he was responding to a robbery in progress. In a lawsuit filed against the county in May, Rebello's family cited CSEA's allegations that 911 operators were not trained for hostage situations.

The CSEA suit said Nassau police officials declined to conduct any training this year, telling 911 supervisors to lead the sessions. Supervisors were then told to distribute handouts outlining new department technologies, such as a GPS tracking system for pharmacy robberies in progress, the suit said. Police officials were not in the room to answer questions, the union said.

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"Our members need to have the full training that is required of them," CSEA president Jerry Laricchiuta said.

The union first filed suit last July, alleging that the county failed to provide the state-mandated 21 hours of classroom training, despite receiving state grants earmarked for it.

CSEA dropped the suit in August after the county signed an agreement with the union stipulating that all the training would be provided.

The suit also alleges that Nassau breached its agreement with the union to provide employees with compensation for the days they were in training.

"Nassau has not followed through on the terms of the settlement agreement," said Lou Stober, a Garden City attorney representing the union.

Foskey said "all training was provided," and that the entire dispute "appears to be nothing more than a money grab." County officials cited the overtime Nassau would have to pay to backfill the 911 posts while operators are in training.

Union officials said their suit calls for the county to provide the proper training and does not ask for any money.

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