Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano has selected a top NYPD chief as the next police commissioner, citing the need for "fresh eyes" in the wake of a critical state inspector general report that highlighted the department's failures in managing its crime lab.
Thomas V. Dale, 61, who has served as chief of personnel for the 52,000-member New York City Police Department for the past two years, will take command of the police department on Jan. 2, Mangano said, pending legislative confirmation.
A resident of Oyster Bay Town, Dale steps in as the county combats a $310-million deficit and with the police department facing the possibility of more than 100 layoffs or voluntary retirements in the coming weeks. While county officials insist no uniformed personnel will be laid off, critics fear Nassau's historically low crime rate could begin to rise.
The department also faces deep managerial concerns following allegations of slipshod practices dating to 2005 at the now-shuttered crime lab as well as claims that some officers have deliberately written fewer traffic tickets during a prolonged labor dispute with the county.
"Taking all these factors into consideration, we believe that Nassau County would benefit from a fresh look at its operations from an experienced law enforcement official," Mangano told Newsday in an interview Friday.
One of only eight three-star chiefs in the NYPD, Dale says he will focus on ensuring that crime remains low in Nassau.
"Every officer will be out there to serve the community," he said. "That's what we do for a living. We don't get paid to lock people up . . . We get paid to serve the community."
History of managing crises
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said Dale's broad range of experience makes him uniquely qualified for the job.
"This [NYPD] is a big, complex organization," Kelly said. "We have 50,000 employees, hundreds of job titles . . . It just shows the complexity of working in that position."
A member of the NYPD since 1970, Dale has served in managerial positions during some of the most tumultuous times in the department's recent history.
He served as commanding officer of all southern Queens police commands when in November 2006 five plainclothes officers -- two of them detectives working undercover -- fired 50 shots at three men, killing Sean Bell the morning of his wedding.
He was the deputy chief in charge of the Bronx precincts when Amadou Diallo, an unarmed Guinean immigrant, was shot and killed by four plainclothes officers in the Soundview neighborhood.
Both shootings sparked community outrage and backlash against the police department. Dale, who was not publicly criticized in either incident, prioritized reaching out to the local communities to soothe relations, including organizing a police talent show in Queens following the Bell shooting.
"It opened a lot of doors that probably we would have never seen because people saw us as members of the community," Dale said. "We are there with them, not against them."
A department in turmoil
Dale takes the reins from Thomas Krumpter, who served as acting commissioner since February following the retirement of Lawrence Mulvey. Krumpter will become the department's 1st deputy.
Mangano said he conducted a dozen interviews for the position, about half with in-house candidates. Ultimately, he said the managerial revelations outlined in the inspector general's report last month convinced him that a new set of eyes was needed.
The report found the police-led crime lab bungled drug testing and failed to have sufficient quality controls in place. The county plans to open a new lab run by the medical examiner's office at the Public Safety Center in Westbury.
"We would expect a real fresh look and thorough assessment," Mangano said. "If discipline is part of that, it would come out this process. The process is there to make certain that we have policies and procedures in place that avoid this type of systemic problem in the department."
A county internal review of its operations extends to allegations that cops have deliberately written fewer tickets this year. The PBA disputes the claims. Mangano said Dale will hold supervisors and officers responsible if the allegations are substantiated.
PBA president James Carver said Dale boasts a solid reputation but warns that policing in New York City is considerably different from Nassau.
"He is going to need to adjust his approach and learn the culture of Nassau," Carver said.
In a career spanning more than four decades, Dale has served in the patrol and detective divisions, organized crime control and the terrorist task force.
From 2003 to 2010, he commanded Patrol Borough Queens South, supervising eight precincts during a time when major crime declined 17 percent.
Dale also developed the security plan for the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City and orchestrated initial patrol operations on Sept. 11, 2001, when he was one of the first senior law enforcement officials on the scene.
In his role as chief of personnel, Dale manages a $5.8-million budget for his office and is responsible for recruitment, promotions, transfers and medical, pension and personnel evaluations.
Questions over pay and benefits, particularly overtime, also loom over the Nassau police department as it struggles to reach a balanced budget.
The PBA and other county unions have been asked to come up with $75 million in labor cuts by Dec. 15 or face more than 400 layoffs. The head count of the 2,433-member police department would drop by 115, documents show.
"Obviously we would like an officer on every block in Nassau County if we can afford it," Dale said. "But we can't afford it. We have to do our job with the resources we are given."
Dale also endorsed other Mangano police initiatives, including closing two precincts and ending precinct-by-precinct minimum manning rules, which require a set number of cops on duty at all hours.
"As a principle it does not make sense to me," Dale said of minimum manning. "We need to change these kinds of rules."
But, Carver says, if Dale attempts to change rules established in union contracts, it could be a bumpy ride.
"I would hope he comes in with an open mind," Carver said. "But if he is going to do the county executive's bidding, laying off police and closing precincts, then this will not be a good relationship."
With Anthony M. DeStefano
Born: Park Slope, Brooklyn
Home: Oyster Bay Town
Career: Began as a plainclothes officer, later moved up the ranks from detective to captain. Served as commanding officer of Patrol Borough Queens South and as executive officer of the NYPD's Patrol Services Bureau. Currently the NYPD's chief of personnel.
Family: Married for 41 years to wife Maureen; two children, Kelly, 40, and Sean, 35; and four grandchildren
ON HIS AGENDA
A lengthy to-do list awaits Thomas Dale as he takes control of the Nassau County Police Department on Jan. 2. The list includes:
Addressing managerial concerns outlined in a state Inspector General report on the department's failures in running its crime lab
Determining whether officers have been deliberately writing fewer traffic violations
The potential layoff or voluntary retirements of more than 100 department personnel in the next two weeks
A prolonged dispute between the Police Benevolent Association and County Executive Edward Mangano concerning wage and benefit cuts, overtime rules and precinct-by-precinct minimum manning standards
The proposed closure of two police precincts and the realignment of six others