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Long IslandCrime

Village police find pay parity with county cops

Most offiers in Nassau and Suffolk pull in

Most offiers in Nassau and Suffolk pull in more than $100,000. (July 2008) Photo Credit: Newsday, 2008 / Thomas A. Ferrara

Lynbrook's 47 police officers brought home an average of some $150,000 last year, officials there say, by working extra hours. Amityville's police get about $125,000, the mayor said, thanks to a village policy giving them automatic parity with Suffolk police.

And in the tiny North Hempstead village of Kensington, officers earn a top salary of $115,362 - a figure Mayor Susan Lopatkin says is not an issue.

"We have a wonderful relationship with our police union," she said. "Our police force has been part of the village fabric almost from its inception."

Their numbers may be fewer and their duties far more limited, but several of Long Island's village police departments offer better compensation packages than county police, say Suffolk's county police union and some labor attorneys - with high pay, generous fringe benefits and abundant time off.

"The counties over the last several contracts have been able to slow the increase in total compensation costs to the point where on average, village police officer compensation is greater than that of a Nassau or Suffolk county police officer," said Richard Zuckerman, a Melville attorney who represents Suffolk County and several of its towns and villages. Last year, Nassau County police averaged $137,858 in total pay; Suffolk's earned $136,985.

Noel DiGerolamo, second vice president of the Suffolk Police Benevolent Association, pointed to the village salaries in explaining why his members should be better paid. "God bless them, they're doing a good job - we're trying to do the best we can for ours," he said.

The counties have long set the pace for village contracts, said Gary Fishberg, an attorney for several Nassau villages, but he says the dynamic is becoming more complicated.

Attorney Vincent Toomey, of New Hyde Park, believes most East End departments still lag Suffolk when fringe pay and benefits are factored in.

Veterans of the process say police have an advantage over village officials because they are better organized and enjoy strong political influence.

"And the village has no bargaining power because if they say they will eliminate their department, they end up with the county anyway," said one attorney who asked not to be identified. "There isn't much of a savings for the villages there."

But that dynamic has started to shift since Nassau's last contract, which slashed starting pay. Terry O'Neil, a Garden City attorney, said he negotiated a new contract in Hempstead Village that followed Nassau's example.

"The county got some meaningful concessions, and that's trickling down," he said.

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