Morale among Nassau police officers has sunk, the president of the force's rank-and-file union said Monday, but he denied it is the cause of a yearlong ticket-writing decrease, as alleged in a police department investigation.
"I would say morale is very low right now. However, that does not affect the work they do day in, day out," James Carver of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association said during a news conference at union headquarters in Mineola.
"I think this is a situation where we're probably a little bit off on summonses, and every dollar, I guess, is counted toward the budget right now. They have to look somewhere."
Carver said that the issuance of fewer tickets and violations -- highlighted in a department probe that began last October and finished early this year -- could instead be attributed to the increase of red light cameras, a cut in the department's motor carrier safety unit and the reduction of the department's motorcycle units.
"We have the same amount of marked patrol units patrolling every single day. However, motor carrier from highway was disbanded and that has a negative impact on tickets overall," Carver said.
The highway unit targeted large commercial vehicle violations, Carver said and issued "thousands of tickets a year."
A county investigation projected that by year's end, traffic and parking citations would have fallen nearly 28 percent since 2010. From 2010 to 2011 alone, total tickets declined 20 percent, from 293,731 to 233,554.
According to county officials, the drop in tickets was fueled by the low morale of rank and file officers.
"What we looked at was how people's activity was prior to April 1, 2011, and after April 1, 2011," First Deputy Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said, adding that the probe focused on 160 officers who had "no bona fide reason or excuse . . . that resulted in a reduction in activity. Their activity, not the department's activity."
Those officers, he said, who come from across all precincts, willfully slowed their ticketing and in some cases halted it altogether.
"It has nothing to do with the number of police on patrol," Krumpter said. "It has everything to do with the individual activity."
Krumpter did not address why morale among officers is low. Nassau officers have been hit in recent years by a wage freeze, downsized precincts and threats by the county executive to have them pay into their health plans.
Public safety has not been impacted by the slowdown of ticket issuances, Krumpter said. He also said that the officers from the motor carrier unit were reassigned to patrol the Long Island Expressway so they, in essence, were on patrol and conducting enforcements.
Members in the motorcycle unit were reassigned to 12 hours of enforcement activity with highway patrol, Krumpter said.
Krumpter said that ticket enforcement has climbed in the past three months.
"We're guardedly optimistic that this trend will continue," he said. "What we're talking about is the 10 percent of the organization that are low performing."
With Robert Brodsky