Acting Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter told lawmakers Thursday that public safety will be “impaired” and the department will cut or eliminate community policing and investigative units if they do not approve a new $105 fee on all traffic and parking tickets.
The fee, which in some cases would more than double the cost of fines and fees paid by violators, is a central component of County Executive Edward Mangano’s 2017 proposed budget.
Mangano plans to use $64.4 million in projected revenue from the ticket fee to hire 150 new officers and 81 civilian police hires.
“Your choices are black and white,” Krumpter told lawmakers. “If you want to cut $60 million out of this budget the price is going to be public safety.”
Alec Slatky, a legislative analyst with the AAA, said there was “no justification” for the fee.
“By promoting this fee, the county is essentially arguing that because we need to fight crime and terrorism, an expired meter must now cost $220,” Slatky said.
Krumpter, who testified for three hours on the budget, said the fee is essential to refilling the department’s ranks after a wave of retirements and to reducing overtime, which consistently exceeds budgets.
Without the revenue, Krumpter said popular “Problem Oriented Police” officers, who are on foot patrol and work closely with residents to address crime, would be put back in patrol cars.
Other significant cuts, he said would come from the community policing program, which focuses on quality-of-life offenses; the Community Emergency Response Team, which prepares residents for emergencies, and the Major Case Investigative Squad.
Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Elmont) said Democratic lawmakers have received more than 1,000 calls or emails opposing the ticket fee. Solages compared the outcry with complaints about the 2014 school speed camera program, which Mangano canceled.
“It’s unfair that we are in a position to decide between public safety and raising revenue,” Solages said.
Democratic Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), said the county would be supporting the police budget with an unstable revenue source that could be affected by motorists altering their behavior.
Said Abrahams, “People could always correct their mistakes.”
Eric Naughton, Nassau’s deputy county executive for finance, called the fee preferable to a tax increase. “If you continue to break the law, you will have to pay more,” he said.
Majority Republicans have declined for nearly two months to say publicly whether they will vote for the fee.
Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said Thursday that lawmakers “have time” to make a decision and that they were reviewing the issue. “This is only the beginning of the process,” said Gonsalves.
Also Thursday, lawmakers questioned county Sheriff Michael Sposato about Armor Correctional Health Services, the jail’s medical care provider. The state has found Armor provided inadequate care in connection with the deaths of five Nassau inmates since winning a county contract in mid-2011.
Lawmakers noted that Armor has failed to meet several required performance measures, including treating inmates’ chronic care issues, but the firm continued to get paid.
Sposato said the contract with the next vendor would be better structured after legislators stressed they wanted greater accountability.
Brian Sullivan, the correction officers union president, said the problems run deeper at the jail, including several recent attacks on guards. He said more money needs to be invested in the facility.
“The place is a shell of its former self,” Sullivan said. “It’s not a safe facility.”
Mangano’s administration is negotiating with a Tennessee company to possibly take over as jail medical vendor.
The legislature will vote on the budget Oct. 31.
With Bridget Murphy