Acting Nassau Police commissioner Thomas Dale with Nassau County Executive...

Acting Nassau Police commissioner Thomas Dale with Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who announced the proposed realignment for the Nassau County Police Department in Mineola. (Jan. 30, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Nassau legislature on Monday delayed votes on a major police precinct realignment, confirmation of a new police commissioner and a plan to streamline the police discipline process because one of the 10-member Republican majority was absent due to illness.

"We only have nine votes, and nine votes is not enough to do a lot of the things that have to be done," Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) announced at the meeting.

Schmitt aide Ed Ward explained later that Legis. Joseph Belesi (R-Farmingdale), a retired police sergeant, had checked in to St. Francis Hospital Saturday night with chest pains. Belesi was undergoing tests Monday, Ward said, but had not had a heart attack. Reached Monday night, Belesi said he hoped to be released from the hospital Tuesday. He did not elaborate on his condition or speak about the police issues before the legislature.

Belesi's hospitalization is one reason the legislature put off consideration of a controversial realignment plan that would downsize four of eight police precincts into "community policing centers," staffed by two officers around the clock rather than a full complement, including detectives.

County Executive Edward Mangano's office said the precinct plan also was delayed while negotiations over cost savings continued with police unions.

"We're going to sit there and try to work out our differences over the concerns that have arisen that we feel would compromise public safety and diminish police services," said James Carver, Police Benevolent Association president.

Mangano says the precinct plan will save up to $20 million annually by cutting 100 administrative jobs, including those of 87 police officers. The realignment will not compromise public safety, and all current police patrols will be maintained, Mangano said. Democrats and the police unions say public safety will decline and response times will lengthen.

Mangano's proposal is part of an effort to close a $310-million budget deficit.

Also Monday, lawmakers put off confirmation of Thomas Dale as Nassau's new police commissioner. After a 41-year career with the New York Police Department, Dale was named in December to replace retired Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey.

Dale has promoted the precinct plan. He also supports amending the administrative code for police officer discipline -- another measure that the legislature delayed Monday. Dale wants the code changed to gain discretion to hand down punishments, including terminations, to officers accused of serious offenses. County code now allows PBA members to choose binding arbitration in cases involving more than 10 days' discipline. The union has said it would fight the change in court.

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