The Hempstead Village board of trustees last week waived residency requirements so the police department can hire additional officers who live outside the village.
The police department hopes to bring its staffing up to 130 officers from 118 and to make it one of Long Island’s largest forces, Chief Michael McGowan said. The move comes after about 15 officers retired last year in the face of changes in their pensions if they served more than 20 years.
So far, the department has taken two transfers from the NYPD and made eight conditional offers that have been accepted, McGowan said. They hope to hire four more officers before the next police academy begins, possibly in May.
Hempstead Village residents are given priority in hiring but the department has “exhausted” the list of residents who have taken the civil service test, the chief said.
“We’re looking for bright, motivated people that are not only interested in becoming a police officer but interested in working in a unique and challenging community,” McGowan said.
The beefing-up in staffing comes during an increase in gang activity in the area — the department created a new uniformed gang task force in November — as well as the planned revitalization of the village’s downtown area that will bring more people into Hempstead.
Attracting new cops was difficult for the police department, McGowan said, because the salaries and benefits in the previous PBA contract didn’t match those elsewhere on the Island.
The previous contract, which expired on May 31, 2016, included a 15 percent health insurance contribution. The new contract, which the board approved last week in its agreement with the Police Benevolent Association, is partly retroactive and runs through May 31, 2020. It gives officers a 9.75 percent raise spread over four years starting in February, as well as increased starting pay and a $1,000 increase in the final level of pay.
“I believe we’ll get better quality recruits with it,” PBA president Chris Giardino said of the changes. “You’re not going to take this job, especially if you’re not getting any love for it” with poor pay and lower benefits.
Mayor Wayne Hall said the village originally wanted the officers to pay an even higher percentage into their health benefits — the 15 percent contribution still applies going forward — but the PBA was “really against that one.”
The mayor said his goal in contract negotiations is to get a fair deal for both the officers and the residents.
While the previous contract required more concessions from the PBA, this time the village was able to give them more incentives.
“We were not as competitive salary-wise so we needed to do something a little different this time around,” village treasurer Ray Calame said.
The new contract also increases the number of training days so officers can learn how to use newly purchased AR-15 rifles.
The Hempstead Village board of trustees approved the Police Benevolent Association’s contract during its meeting on Jan. 3. The new contract runs out on May 31, 2020, and includes:
- Raises: 2 percent effective Feb. 1, 2017; 2.5 percent effective June 1, 2017; 2.5 percent effective June 1, 2018; and 2.75 percent effective June 1, 2019
- Higher starting pay: Previously, recruits were paid a lower rate while they were in the police academy. Now they will go through the academy at the full rate of $50,533.
- Increased final pay rate: The final step of an officer’s pay rate will be increased by $1,000.
- Additional training days: Officers will have six training days — from three previously — in 2017 to learn how to use AR-15 rifles. In 2018, there will be five training days and from 2020 on there will be four.