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Nassau police brass gets remade with new promotions

Nassau County police Inspector Keechant Sewell has been

Nassau County police Inspector Keechant Sewell has been promoted to deputy chief and, effective Jan. 5, 2017, becomes chief of the Professional Standards Bureau, which includes Internal Affairs. She is the first African-American woman to achieve the rank of chief in the department, officials said. Credit: NCPD

A series of promotions and transfers on the heels of a wave of retirements is remaking the brass of the Nassau County Police Department.

The promotions backfill vacant posts as the 2,446-officer department has contended with a flood of retirements in recent years, acting Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said. The moves come while the department faces increased overtime costs and a budget shortfall that caused a delay in hiring new recruits — even as the county enjoys a reduction in crime.

In the top promotion, Krumpter appointed Patrick Ryder a deputy commissioner. Ryder, previously a detective sergeant, was the commanding officer of the department’s Asset Forfeiture and Intelligence Unit.

And Chief Kevin Smith, who previously served as chief of detectives and was the longtime public face of the department as the public information officer for 14 years, was named the new chief of department — becoming a four-star chief and the top uniformed officer. Smith replaces Steven Skrynecki, who is leaving the department to run the Southampton Town force.

In one of two firsts for the department, Assistant Chief Stephen Palmer, who previously helmed internal affairs, becomes chief of detectives — the first African-American to hold that post, department officials said. And Keechant Sewell, who was the commanding officer of the Major Case Squad, becomes the chief of the Professional Standards Bureau, which includes Internal Affairs. Sewell is the first African-American woman to achieve the rank of chief in the police department, officials said.

The 14 promotions, along with moves to new commands for those officers and others, will be effective Thursday, per a department personnel order issued by Krumpter.

Most of the promotions come with salary increases ranging from $60 to about $16,000 annually, according to department figures. However, Ryder, as a detective sergeant taking on a civilian post, will see his salary decrease from the base of $273,709 he made in 2016 to his new set salary of $249,425 — a $24,284 pay cut. Smith gets an increase of $7,056 with his new annual salary of $249,091.

“I’ve looked at assembling a team to continue to advance this department and to continue for the department to improve,” Krumpter said. “People today here work harder than ever before. The demands on them are more than ever before and we’ve assembled a team that’s truly deserving of the positions they’ve been promoted to.”

The department has streamlined its management structure over the years, with the number of those in the rank of captain and above down to just over 30 from more than 70 about eight years ago — reflecting an increased emphasis on getting more cops on the street, Krumpter said.

There were 67 retirements in 2016 and 198 retirements in 2015, according to department statistics. And already, 40 officers have filed their retirement papers for January, probably seeking to retire in the last year of the contract as a wage increase is set to take effect in January that would boost severance pay, officials said.

Krumpter said the department has been successful over the past year, and he pointed to crime statistics showing that overall crime is down 8.9 percent, with the number of homicides in the county at 22, dropping from 24 in 2015.

But the department has struggled to keep its overtime costs in check, with it on track to surpass its 2016 overtime budget by $13 million. Budget constraints led the department to put off until May hiring 120 new police officers who were scheduled to enter the police academy last month.

Krumpter also is poised to institute a number of cuts as he grapples with an approximately $5 million departmental budget shortfall. Last year, Krumpter spoke before the county legislature, aggressively pushing for a proposed $105 fee on traffic and parking tickets that would have gone to police hiring; lawmakers later reduced the fee to $55 and only applied it to traffic tickets.

“We’re coming off a year that as I sit here today, crime is down 8.98 percent,” Krumpter said. “We have provided a degree of safety in Nassau County when it comes to homeland security. We are zealously focused on the opioid epidemic here; we are focused on traffic safety. There are no crises within the department. All we have to do is manage a budget. The county’s given us $860 million next year, give or take a few bucks, and we have to now manage that budget. I need a solid management team to manage that budget.”

Smith, a 32-year veteran of the department who worked as a plainclothes officer and undercover in narcotics, said he was “quite honored” to get the chief of department position.

“My phone has been buzzing with supporters who are thrilled to death for me, and I only hope that I can rise to the occasion and really take care of the business that they want me to,” said Smith, who added that he hoped to bolster residents’ feelings of safety and security and tackle issues such as traffic fatalities and the heroin epidemic.

Ryder, a highly decorated officer with more than 30 department awards — including four medals of commendation — began his career in 1986. He will oversee intelligence and counterterrorism in his new role, as well as anything else the commissioner tasks him with.

“It is a very humbling feeling when someone asks you to take that type of promotion,” said Ryder, who worked in intelligence and asset forfeiture for 16 years.

But, he added: “My goals are the same as they’ve always been: We want to continue to make Nassau County a safe place to live, reducing crime with our new crime strategies and initiatives that we’ve been pushing over the last several years. And my other job is on the forfeiture side to keep going after the bad guys and taking their money away.”

Brian Hoesl, president of the Superior Officers Association, the union representing those at the ranks of captain and above, said while he has “great respect” for Ryder, whom he called “talented,” he questioned Krumpter on his decision to appoint the detective sergeant to the deputy commissioner post, bypassing several higher-ranking officers.

The move is not unprecedented, however, as lieutenants and sergeants have been promoted to deputy commissioner three times previously, officials said. Ryder will take a leave of absence from his post as a detective sergeant as he takes on the civilian deputy commissioner job.

Krumpter defended his choice, pointing to Ryder’s expertise in asset forfeiture, which has seized about $141 million from illegal activity that has been used to fund a host of equipment purchases and initiatives. He said Ryder “brings a skill set to the table that is unique. He’s earned this. He’s worked hard. He’s dedicated his life to this department. He’s dedicated his life to make Nassau County a safer place.”

Among the other promotions is Kevin Canavan, most recently the chief of support services, who was promoted to assistant chief and will be the chief of patrol. Kenneth Lack, who spent about 16 years on the street as an officer, sergeant and lieutenant, was promoted to an assistant chief and was named deputy chief of patrol.

In addition to Sewell, two other inspectors are becoming deputy chiefs. John Berry, who was the commanding officer of the Third Precinct, will go to patrol as the executive officer, while Ronald Walsh, who was the commanding officer of the police academy, becomes the chief of tactical services and field services.

NCPD PROMOTIONS AND ASSIGNMENTS, to take effect Jan. 5, 2017

  • Patrick Ryder, detective sergeant to deputy commissioner: current salary: $273,709; new salary: $249,425
  • Kevin Smith, chief of detectives to chief of department: current salary: $242,035; new salary: $249,091
  • Stephen Palmer, deputy chief to assistant chief and becomes chief of detectives: current salary: $210,737; new salary: $212,223
  • Kevin Canavan, deputy chief to assistant chief and becomes chief of patrol: current salary: $210,137; new salary: $212,223
  • Kenneth Lack, deputy chief to assistant chief and becomes deputy chief of patrol: current salary: $208,637; new salary: $212,223
  • John Berry, inspector to deputy chief and becomes executive officer of patrol: current salary: $200,383; new salary: $201,643
  • Keechant Sewell, inspector to deputy chief and becomes chief of the Professional Standards Bureau: current salary: $198,883; new salary: $201,643
  • Ronald Walsh, inspector to deputy chief and becomes chief of Tactical Services and Field Services: current salary: $201,583; new salary: $201,643
  • Lorna Atmore, deputy inspector to inspector: current salary: $190,468; new salary: $193,836
  • Robert Torres, deputy inspector to inspector: current salary: $191,068; new salary: $193,836
  • Kenneth Catalani, captain to deputy inspector, becomes commanding officer of the major case bureau: current salary: $181,682; new salary: $184,640
  • James Wilson, captain to deputy inspector, becomes deputy commanding officer of the Third Precinct: current salary: $179,282; new salary: $184,640
  • Tara Comiskey, lieutenant to captain, becomes deputy commanding officer of the Fourth Precinct: current salary: $161,127; new salary: $177,665
  • William Leahy, lieutenant to captain, moves to the Seventh Precinct: current salary: $161,127; new salary: $177,665

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