Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano Monday proposed a reorganization of the police department that would realign the county's eight precincts and save as much as $20 million annually by cutting 100 administrative jobs, which could include police officers.
Mangano would turn four current station houses into "community policing centers," staffed by two officers each around the clock, and reassign 48 officers from desk jobs to neighborhood crime prevention. The centers would have two officers on duty at all times, but will not handle administrative paperwork and criminal processing. Residents could pick up accident reports there and the buildings would have community meeting rooms.
The plan, which Mangano said would not result in service reduction, must be approved by the county legislature.
Currently, 38 police officers work in each of the eight precinct houses, Mangano aide Brian Nevin said. The number would be dropped to two in the precincts to be turned into community centers: The current First Precinct in Baldwin, Fifth Precinct in Elmont, Sixth Precinct in Manhasset and the Eighth Precinct in Levittown. A $15 million rebuilding project is under way in the First Precinct house. Nevin said the construction will continue.
The remaining precincts would be the Second in Woodbury, the Third in Williston Park, the Seventh Precinct in Seaford (which would be renamed the First) and the Fourth in Hewlett. The choices were made through a scientific approach based on caseload and geography, Nevin said.
Mangano, a Republican, offered his latest proposal to restructure the county's precincts, established in the early 1970s, at police headquarters in Mineola. He was accompanied by his choice for police commissioner, Thomas Dale, and other police brass.
Although Mangano twice before has suggested consolidating and reducing precincts as a way to streamline the department and trim its $685.7 million budget, he provided details for the first time Monday.
Mangano stressed that his plan will maintain the same 177 police cars patrolling the same neighborhoods. "Keeping residents safe is our number one priority," he said.
Dale said, "There will be no change in service, period."
While legislative Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) expressed support, Democrats and police union presidents were critical.
"With prescription drug abuse rampant, armed burglaries, seniors facing home invasions, drugstore shootings, I shudder to think what we will face when we eliminate 50 percent of our precincts," said Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick).
Police Benevolent Association president James Carver said, "Police stations aren't here to save money. There are here to serve the public. This is all about saving money."
Gary Learned, president of the Superior Officers Association, the union representing supervisory police, said calling the former station houses "policing centers" is "all political. The most they can do is give directions to the new precinct."
Mangano's proposal came just two days before he is supposed to provide the county's financial control board with $150 million in recurring labor savings. Asked if the plan is a hardball negotiation tactic to obtain union givebacks, Mangano said he remains "open to discussing policy with our unions."
Carver responded, "These are not negotiable items." Closing police precincts, he said, "is violating the social contract that government has with its residents to provide them with public safety and the quality of life that they deserve."
County officials say that reducing the number of precincts will help cut police overtime -- which soared to more than $50 million last year -- by doubling the number of officers available to work in each precinct. The PBA contract calls for "minimum manning" in each precinct, which prevents the administration from shifting officers from one precinct to another as needed.
Officials said technology has reduced the need for physical precincts, with patrol cars becoming "mobile precincts" equipped with computers. Dale said the main reason residents go to their precinct house is to pick up copies of traffic accident reports, which the county intends to make available over the Internet. Residents still will be able to pick them up at the precincts and community centers.
But Baldwin resident Ian Herrera said he wasn't happy about the plan to turn the First Precinct into a community policing hub. He said he bought his home in large part because it was just a couple of doors down from a precinct.
"How much are they really going to save me?" Herrera said. "I would rather see it stay there since I already pay about $12,000 a year in property taxes."
With Robert Brodsky
and Tania Lopez