Nassau Police Benevolent Association president James Carver has always been an unapologetic advocate for his members, and he should be. Furthering their interests is his job. But lately he's taken on causes that could do his officers more harm than good.
Over the past two weeks, the department has been subjected to a firestorm of outrage, thanks largely to the discovery by Newsday of a theoretically secret 350-page Nassau County Police internal affairs report. The report concluded that one officer shot a cabdriver while off duty and drunk, another lied for him, and numerous members of the Nassau and Suffolk departments botched or obstructed investigations.
In response, Carver has demanded that the lawyer who left the report where it was discovered, in a civil lawsuit file, face "the strictest of sanctions," and bemoaned the fact that there's no way to undo the release of the information. But the state law in place to keep such information secret is a terrible one, and Carver is courting more public anger for his members with this attack, without gaining much by it.
In addition, Carver is still fighting the ability of Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Dale to discipline officers. The police contract says officers facing departmental charges can opt for arbitration, but the Nassau legislature has given Dale disciplinary power. The PBA is suing, but court precedent in similar cases suggests Dale will win.
Even if that case weren't a loser, the public relations of it would be. Cops have generally enjoyed and deserved tremendous public support on Long Island. Now, though, they are under fire for a series of misbehaviors both alleged and proven, by both rank-and-file officers and brass. Carver isn't doing the residents any favors by fighting to keep cops' infractions secret, and their discipline softened and manipulated by arbitrators. What's more, he isn't doing the cops any favors by pursuing these fights at this point, either.