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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Will Nassau's hybrid precinct system work?

Baldwin's First Precinct on Nov. 13, 2014. The

Baldwin's First Precinct on Nov. 13, 2014. The Nassau County Police Department has canceled its plans to merge this precinct and the Seventh Precinct in Seaford, officials told Newsday. Credit: Johnny Milano

Two years after a historic realignment of Nassau's original eight police precincts to save money, the county's going to a hybrid precinct system.

Four merged precincts will stay merged -- in Williston Park and Woodbury. Two that never merged -- in Baldwin and Seaford -- will remain separate.

And one that was merged will end up unmerged -- with precincts once again in both Hewlett and Elmont.

In short, two merged precincts will serve a portion of the county, while the remainder will be served by four original ones.

The county's argument from the get-go was that residents wouldn't notice because precincts essentially handle back-office functions -- and that the mergers were necessary to save money.

But residents, especially in Elmont and Baldwin, indeed noticed. And they hardly remained silent about their desires to see the station house in Baldwin redone and the one in Elmont reopened.

Superstorm Sandy put an end to the Baldwin/Seaford merger because, well, the station house in the merged precinct would have been in a flood-prone area on the South Shore.

And Legis. Carrié Solages of Elmont was so persistent about reopening a precinct in his community that fellow Democrats in the county legislature used it -- successfully -- as a bargaining chit in exchange for agreeing to give Republicans needed votes to borrow money to cover tax certs and other expenses.

But wait.

If reopening that particular precinct was fair barter, why wouldn't the reopening of other former precincts -- now called community policing centers -- be fair game too?

And, by the way, is this really how police policy is supposed to work?

Thomas Krumpter, Nassau's acting police commissioner, said he believed the new hybrid system would work.

And that residents would remain satisfied with the plan because the current mix of station houses and community policing centers was working too.

"I don't think residents are going to notice a difference," Krumpter said Wednesday, noting that the hybrid system would not cost any additional money.

But wasn't the original plan supposed to save some $20 million for the county, where police overtime consistently has come under scrutiny from budget officials for being too high?

Krumpter said the department's plan to bring in an expected three new academy classes of police hires -- who would earn less, and take more time to reach top pay -- would bring spending down.

And what about Nassau residents who want their original precincts reopened?

"It is only a very small group of residents in Nassau County who want their precincts back," he said.

Maybe police haven't been hearing much from residents about precincts.

But soon they will find out residents' views on the department itself.

That's because Nassau police have commissioned what appears to be its first-ever poll of public attitudes toward police and how they operate.

The poll will be used to provide a benchmark, which police will use to measure the public's view of police performance over time, Krumpter said.

The poll will seek public input in several areas, including police use of force, he said.

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