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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

By the numbers: Nassau police department

A Nassau police car outside the Sixth Precinct.

A Nassau police car outside the Sixth Precinct. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

By the numbers. It's what policing in Nassau County is supposed to be about.

Sure, good police work is about more than numbers. But Nassau has become nationally known for using numbers to help determine where to deploy department resources and detect crime.

Nassau transmits information from its Real Time Intelligence Center to patrol cars and precinct houses -- often in plain sight of alleged offenders.

The system can quickly relay information, including photographs and maps, and even note what officer made what arrest.

The department moved swiftly to demote Thomas DePaola, former commander of both the Fifth and Sixth precincts, after an internal investigation determined that he had been falsifying crime statistics since early 2011.

Should he have been fired? Department officials weren't saying Wednesday. Nor were they offering up any explanation as to why a commander once deemed proficient enough to run its SWAT team would turn to cooking the books.

The fallout from the demotion won't end here. That's because numbers garnered from the Fifth and Sixth precincts -- which appeared at one point to have the county's lightest larceny caseload -- were used to bolster a plan to better distribute the department's workload and reduce county costs by consolidating eight precincts into four.

Wednesday, Legis. Wayne Wink Jr. (D-Roslyn), who represents communities covered by the now-consolidated Sixth Precinct, said he was considering asking for a hearing into the matter. Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Elmont), who represents the soon-to-be-consolidated Fifth Precinct, said he would join that call.

"As I said last year, I know for a fact that crimes were not being reported," Solages said. "I think that what happened is a slap in the face to the officers out there doing their jobs."

Police reports are sent to the precinct for review by officers and an intelligence analyst to ensure, in part, that the offenses are accurately categorized. The commanding officer has the discretion to make or order changes made in reports before they leave the precinct.

According to police, major crimes were reclassified to minor ones, and some crimes were not reported at all under DePaola's watch. How important are numbers, and the information that reports from police on the street yield?

In Suffolk County, allegations that the police department underreported hate crimes has led to an ongoing U.S. Justice Department investigation.

In its initial findings, the DOJ noted that the department had missed an opportunity to identify and potentially deal with a series of violent incidents against Latino immigrants before the 2008 slaying of Marcelo Lucero.

Police in Nassau said that the misclassified incidents did not include serious ones or hinder investigations. They also noted that 170 misclassified incidents are minuscule compared to the hundreds of thousands the department routinely handles.

Still, 170 misclassifications means something in those communities. It's one more embarrassment the department doesn't need.


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