As the Nassau County Police Department has embarked on a hiring spree to fill its thinned ranks, union leaders say more supervisors are needed while department brass contend that staffing levels are appropriate.
With a total of 198 separations in 2015, the department is set to take on 330 officers to replenish the force — a wave of rookies that union leaders and some policing experts say need strong supervision as they learn the art of policing on the streets.
But department brass argue the department’s supervisory ranks are more than adequate and the span of control — the ratio of officers to supervisors — has been maintained even as the department has consolidated precincts.
“We have great police officers; and we have a very robust supervisory force for the size of this department,” said acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter. “Supervisors are not everywhere in any place. Police officers are trained professionals and they’re expected to operate in a professional manner. Supervisors are there as a control, supervisors are there to provide mentoring, and to provide expert oversight. . . . But we don’t have a supervisor in each and every car.”
Krumpter said there has been a decrease in the number of supervisors but that decline has coincided with the department’s overall shrinkage, as policing has more heavily relied on technology. For example, in the department’s Communications Bureau, which takes 911 calls, about 20 supervisory positions that were once staffed by sworn police department employees are now filled by civilians, a cost-cutting measure, Krumpter said.
The department’s 2,356 sworn officers include 340 supervisors — from the rank of sergeant to chief, according to department statistics as of March 1. Typically, sergeants and lieutenants are the front-line supervisors. In 2014, the number of supervisors was 321, when the department ended the year with 2,190 members, department statistics show.
Of the 198 retirements in 2015, 108 were police officers, 23 were detectives and 36 were of the captain rank or higher, according to department statistics. There were 135 retirements in 2014.
Brian Hoesl, president of Nassau’s Superior Officers’ Association, said more supervisors are needed because many patrol supervisors are stretched thin — responsible for their own flock of officers and oftentimes asked to check in on special patrols and details.
“All of the special units, we feel a lot of those units go virtually unsupervised,” Hoesl said. “A lot of plainclothes units only have one supervisor. You can’t expect the precinct supervisor to cover all these guys then have details with plainclothes guys and know where they all are, too. It’s a burden. They put a lot of burden on the patrol supervisors.”
After Hoesl complained, Krumpter agreed to add a second supervisor to the detail of officers at the Roosevelt Field mall, one of the largest malls in the region and the site of a December shooting during a robbery at a luxury watch store. Additionally, a department policy allowing “field arrests” for charges of petty larceny at Roosevelt Field, mandated a supervisor’s presence.
There was only one supervisor — who worked a four days on, four days off schedule — assigned to the mall, sometimes leaving the massive shopping center without a dedicated supervisor more than half of the week.
With the department’s current academy class — its largest in two decades, about 180 officers — set to graduate in May, Hoesl said the new recruits need adequate guidance. Another academy class of about 150 recruits is set to begin once that class graduates, Krumpter said.
“For a lot of new cops, it takes you years to get used to patrol,” Hoesl said. “You really need someone around to tell you what to do. Sometimes, it’s really lacking on this job. The bottom line is, we have good cops and they do the right thing, but sometimes you need supervision.”
Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD sergeant and adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, said the department’s span of control, defined as the number of officers a supervisor can effectively manage, is too high, especially given the spread-out area that officers patrol.
Policing experts recommend a span of control of 1 to between 6 and 10. Krumpter said is the department’s span of control is about 1 supervisor for every 12 employees, but the number varies by command and in some areas of the department — in patrol and detectives combined, the ratio is 1 to 6.
“Supervision is the mechanism that can mitigate police misconduct,” Giacalone said. “Supervisors out in the field, checking on its members to ensure quality and compliance can increase public faith in the police.”
Krumpter said the department’s ratios are “all within the normal span of control and ranges that are appropriate supervision.”
In the Suffolk County Police Department, the span of control is about 1 to 4 in the patrol and detective divisions combined, with 1,841 police officers and detectives and 392 direct supervisors — sergeants and lieutenants.
In early 2015, Krumpter assigned supervisors to ride along with the lowest-performing patrols cops for up to three hours on each shift to retrain them, saying about 60 to 70 officers who ranked in the lowest 10 percent for issuing moving violations in each precinct and the highway patrol over several months weren’t “carrying their weight.”
Krumpter, in a recent interview, declined to say how many officers were retrained as a result.
But according to department statistics, the number of moving violations increased from 104,111 from Jan. 1 to Sept. 21 of 2014, to 125,062 for the same period in 2015.
Krumpter stressed that recruits undergo rigorous training for more than seven months in the police academy before hitting the streets and then are closely supervised. And the sergeants that typically supervise patrol officers respond to scenes, and inspect memo books on every tour “to the extent possible,” Krumpter said.
“You should have someone checking on what they’re doing, their work habits, if they’re covering the calls in the right amount of time,” Hoesl said. “If you put absolutely no supervision in there, your best workers might not perform to the best standards.”
The department’s 2012 precinct consolidation, which saw the Third Precinct in Williston Park absorb the Sixth Precinct in Manhasset and the Levittown-based Eighth Precinct merge with the Second Precinct in Woodbury, eliminated some supervisor jobs. For example, the precincts that were merged lost a commanding officers slot, and instead of two desk supervisor in each precinct, there is now one.
The merger of the Fifth Precinct in Elmont and the Fourth in Hewlett was ultimately reversed due to community pressure, and county officials ultimately abandoned the idea of merging the First Precinct in Baldwin with the Seventh in Seaford before they were ever consolidated.
While Krumpter acknowledged some job eliminations, he said the number of patrol supervisors — 16 — for the department’s 177 sector cars has remained constant.
“We’re still providing more than adequate supervision,” Krumpter said.
James Carver, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said as the department continues to hire officers, it needs to bulk up the supervisor ranks. He said the mentorship part is important at the beginning of officers’ careers, and throughout, as officers seek advancement.
“I believe you get to build a cop better when you’re not spread too thin,” Carver said. “You get to know that police officer better. . . . They have too many police officers to supervise and they’re not getting to know them.”
Supervision isn’t a new issue for Nassau police.
Kevin Carroll, the “administrative supervisor” for Michael Tedesco, an officer in Seaford’s Seventh Precinct, was disciplined, said department officials, who declined to say what exactly Carroll was disciplined for or detail his punishment. He was later promoted.
Tedesco resigned and pleaded guilty last year to dozens of official misconduct charges for spending hundreds of hours of work time at the homes of two of his mistresses.
Tedesco’s deceit resulted in delays answering 911 calls, police said. The same month Tedesco was sentenced to community service and forced to forfeit $195,000 in termination pay, Carroll was promoted to lieutenant, police said.
Krumpter called that an “isolated incident” and rejected the notion that it indicated a larger issue with department supervision.
“At the end of the day, our police officers are acting appropriately,” he said. “We have an adequate level of supervision that’s more than sufficient for the police officers that are on patrol.”
Nassau’s police force