Suffolk barred from taking deputies off roads

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The Suffolk deputy sheriffs union has won a court order that will temporarily allow the deputies to continue patrolling the Long Island Expressway and Sunrise Highway -- a task Suffolk County planned to hand to county police.

Suffolk police, who won the right to patrol the highways as part of an eight-year Police Benevolent Association pact that was ratified this past week, were scheduled to take over the patrols on Sunday.

But the Suffolk County Deputy Sheriff's Police Benevolent Association sued and won a temporary restraining order Friday from State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Farneti that allows sheriffs deputies to continue patrolling the highways for the time being. The deputies are in the midst of their own contract negotiations with the county.

The restraining order did not come as a surprise, said Jon Schneider, a spokesman for County Executive Steve Bellone. The county will attempt to settle the issue with the deputies, said Schneider, who declined to detail potential settlement offers.

"We'll continue to talk in good faith, and we're confident we can come to a settlement," Schneider said.

Attempts to reach Suffolk sheriffs union president Anthony Prudenti were not successful.

Bellone's predecessor, former County Executive Steve Levy, had assigned the two roadways to the county sheriff's office in 2008, saying it would save money because deputies earn less than officers.

Bellone, in handing the highway patrols back to the police, dismissed a September 2011 memorandum of agreement that Levy had reached with the deputies union. That agreement pledged that if deputies deferred half of their three years of owed retroactive pay raises through 2015, Suffolk County couldn't replace them with other sworn officers on any job function through 2017.

Suffolk PBA president Noel DiGerolamo, who said he "anticipated that the deputies union would challenge the move and attempt to use it as a bargaining piece for their contract negotiations," said he is confident county police will eventually gain control of highway patrols.

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