Long Island's highest-paid county police officer is not a chief or a division commander. He's not even a detective.
He's Officer Daniel McKenna, of the Nassau County highway patrol's special drunken-driving enforcement team, who last year earned $246,374, according to county records -- including more than $113,000 in overtime. It's part of the price tag of Nassau's get-tough policy against drunken drivers that was highlighted last year with County Executive Thomas Suozzi's controversial "Wall of Shame."
Overtime earned under that crackdown helped 11 rank-and-file police officers earn more than $200,000 last year - most of it racked up in processing arrests, doing blood-alcohol testing and testifying in court, according to the department.
McKenna, who did not respond to an interview request, is a 14-year veteran on the force. He worked 1,241 hours of overtime in 2008, including 300 hours testifying. He made 121 arrests, including 76 for drunken-driving offenses; assisted on another 68 arrests and issued 521 traffic tickets, according to the department.
Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey called the drunken-driving enforcement overtime "money well spent." The county has had fewer accidents, DWI arrests and traffic fatalities so far this year, he said. "If I was spending that much money to man parades on Labor Day . . . I wouldn't have as good a feeling about those expenditures," he said. "We have to make an investment to keep the roads safe."
But the payouts also help explain why Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy's decision to shift highway patrol duties to the county sheriff sparked such a battle. As Suffolk PBA president Jeff Frayler said in an affidavit challenging the move, the shift cost his members "incalculable overtime opportunities."
Those can include targeted patrols funded by state grants to enforce seat-belt laws and combat drunken and aggressive driving and abuse of HOV lanes and disabled parking. Police also can earn overtime at highway construction jobs; it is reimbursed by the contractor.
Suffolk highway patrol officers earned twice as much overtime, on average, as other cops, according to county labor relations director Jeffrey Tempera. But the overtime dollar stretches further with sheriff's deputies, because their base pay is lower.
The top-earning Suffolk sheriff's deputy on highway patrol, Deputy Sheriff Vincent Aparicio, has earned $117,647, including $46,107 in overtime, since the department took over the duty last September, Sheriff Vincent DeMarco said.