Treat Nassau precinct plan as pilot program

A file photo of Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas A file photo of Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Dale, left, and Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano in Mineola. (March 5, 2012) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Joye Brown Newsday columnist Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has

It's official. Nassau's new police commissioner has the power to cut the county's eight police precincts down to four.

Now what?

Thomas Dale, who was confirmed as commissioner Monday, has been consistent in saying it's a process he intends to take slowly.

Start with two precincts, meld them into one and work out the kinks certain to come along the way. Then move along to the next pair.

Even after the vote, significant questions remain: Where are double the number of employees going to park? Where are arrests going to be processed? How are supervisors going to manage twice the number of employees?

And with two of the new mega-precincts planned for areas prone to significant flooding, what's the backup plan?

No such details were released Monday, or during any earlier public meeting on the proposal. And even if they had been revealed, the plan's still changing.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Dale acknowledged as much Monday, pointing out to lawmakers that County Executive Edward Mangano was still negotiating with county police unions on issues, including mini-precinct staffing.

A plan still under construction is never a safe vote. As one lawmaker correctly pointed out during Monday's rambunctious session, lawmakers were being asked to approve a concept rather than a plan.

That's bad, because there's yet to be a final cost savings attached to the proposal. But having a concept does leave open the option of making changes where warranted.

"Why not do a test?" Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) said at one point, before the proposal was approved 10-9, with the Republican majority prevailing against Democrats. "Why not do a small pilot project?"

It's an idea that has merit even after the vote.

@Newsday

The Mangano administration would do well to publicize what happens in the first consolidation process. In short, treat it like a pilot program.

What works? What doesn't? Is there an impact on public safety?

Answering such questions could help quell nervousness in some communities trying to grapple with the proposed changes, which are geared toward the necessary trimming of escalating costs in the cash-strapped county.

Still, Nassau, which for decades has prided itself on the safety of its communities, has done nothing like this before.

Jacobs said she had found only one community that did: Detroit, which at one point cut precincts to save money, but reversed course a few years later because the plan did not work.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Will this reconfiguration work? For Nassau's budget? And for Nassau's residents? That remains to be seen as Dale turns a concept into an uncharted reality.

Which is why slow would be good, and transparency even better.

You also may be interested in: