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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Nassau needs a permanent police commissioner

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano on Jan. 10,

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano on Jan. 10, 2014. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano ought to fulfill his promise to conduct a thorough search for a new police commissioner.

Mangano told Newsday last week that he was not satisfied with candidates who had applied to run one of the largest suburban police departments in the nation -- during a time when the department is attempting to recover from a series of scandals.

Really? Is there no one out there with the chops to take on the job?

Mangano said instead that he intends to leave Thomas Krumpter in place as acting commissioner -- for the foreseeable future.

But that doesn't necessarily work for Nassau's residents. The county has had an acting assessor for going on four years. And Monday, a former deputy parks commissioner was introduced during a legislative meeting as the acting parks commissioner -- in a department that months ago was supposed to be merged with public works as part of a cost-savings initiative.

Mangano said he believes that acting heads work harder. That may be so, but how many acting department heads does one county need -- especially in the police department, which still is working to regain public trust?

As acting commissioner, Krumpter won't have to go through the legislative confirmation process, where he likely would be asked to outline his plans for the department.

Yes, Krumpter was essential to negotiating a series of labor contracts with the county law enforcement and other unions, as Mangano points out.

Yes, he's put specialty police units back into uniform and out on the street, and he's working with an outside firm to put an ethics training program into place.

And, yes, Krumpter fired Anthony DiLeonardo, who was off-duty and not in uniform when he shot an unarmed cabdriver in Huntington Station after a night of drinking with another police officer. But that action came three years after the incident -- and after a Newsday story detailing the internal affairs report in the case.

The firing also was built on former Police Commissioner Thomas Dale's successful court fight, supported by Mangano, to vest the authority to fire with the commissioner -- which, incidentally, is how it works in other police departments in New York State.

Last year, Mangano said he would go outside the department for a successor to Dale. He also said he wanted a disciplinarian, who presumably was to continue the work of Dale -- whom Mangano had forced to step down in December after Dale had personally directed officers to arrest a witness in a politically charged election-year case.

Mangano told Newsday last week he wasn't satisfied with the quality of commissioner applicants he had received. "During the selection process, there was no single applicant that fulfilled the criteria we were looking for," he said.

So, why not keep looking rather than suspending the search -- effectively consigning the department, its officers and Nassau's residents to having an acting rather than full commissioner?

The department's gone too long without a commissioner. It will take strong leadership for the department to regain its bearings. But first, there has to be a strong, permanent leader.

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