Looking to save more than $20 million, County Executive Edward Mangano on Friday proposed a major overhaul of Nassau's police department that would consolidate two North Shore precincts while shrinking the force by 125 sworn officers.
Mangano and Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey said that the consolidation plan they presented to Nassau's three police unions at a closed-door meeting is preliminary and open to change.
But both stressed that savings will come from eliminating administrative jobs, not street cops. "The same number of police cars will patrol the same area," Mangano said.
The proposed plan would consolidate the Sixth Precinct, which includes Manhasset, Great Neck and other parts of North Hempstead Town, with the Second Precinct, which includes Syosset and Hicksville and other parts of Oyster Bay Town.
Combined HQ: Woodbury
The Second Precinct building in Woodbury would become headquarters for the new combined district. Mangano said a "police presence" would be maintained at the current Sixth Precinct building in Manhasset, where ambulances would still be stationed, police cars refueled and residents' reports taken.
Eliminating "duplicative management" will save Nassau $20 million next year when the county faces a multimillion-dollar budget deficit, Mangano said.
People walking in Great Neck Friday had mixed reactions to word of Mangano's plan.
"That's terrible!" said Sarah Kerzner, 72, of Great Neck, who lamented that her tax dollars might yield less service for her community. "What do we get if we don't get security, we don't get police?
Samuel Zaretsky, 18, of Great Neck, worried that the police might not be able to get to a scene as quickly if there is a merger. "If they're merged, wouldn't reporting time be affected?" he wondered.
But Hormoz Dilmanian, 63, of nearby Lake Success, which has its own village police force, said economic realities mean cuts must be considered in harsh times. "People do not like to cut back on public safety, but if they [government officials] have to . . . then they have to."
Handles fewer calls
His office provided statistics showing that a combined total of 1,315 major crimes, such as robbery, assault, burglary and stolen vehicles, were reported in the Sixth and Second precincts in 2009. The Third Precinct had 1,743 reported major crimes, the First had 1,347 and the Fifth had 1,333, he said.
The $20 million in savings comes from reducing the force by 125 officers - around 4.9 percent of its current total - who opted for this year's retirement incentive. Mulvey said there are no plans to replace any of them, which will shrink the force next year to about 2,433 officers. He said that under the consolidation plan disclosed Friday, some officers now working desk jobs could find themselves on the street next year, but he doubted there would be any demotions.
A police union leader and some county politicians said they were surprised by the consolidation plan, though most said they wanted details before commenting.
However, Police Benevolent Association president James Carver said, "We're not in favor of consolidating any precincts and reducing any patrols that would affect crime or the quality of life."
Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury), whose district includes part of the Second Precinct, said, "I certainly would not say I'm in favor of anything like that. I would have to speak to the police and find out what is the benefit if any to the health, safety and welfare of the residents."
Mangano's staff said the administrative changes do not need approval of the union or the county legislature - though some Democrats question his authority. Mangano said he intended to fully brief county lawmakers about his plan, which is expected to be in the 2011 budget released Sept. 15.
Mulvey said he will be meeting again Monday with the unions to outline details. Nassau's police unions negotiated givebacks last year with Mangano's predecessor, Thomas Suozzi, and have been reluctant to reopen contracts that prohibit layoffs.
Mangano said the contracts "tie the administration's hands . . . I have to deal with the cards that were left."
With Jennifer Kelleher