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Nassau police officer morale at low point, union leader says

James McDermott, the new president of the Nassau

James McDermott, the new president of the Nassau Police Benevolent Association, said on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, that morale among the rank and file officers he represents has hit a low point. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Morale among Nassau police officers has reached a low point, according to the new president of the union representing the department’s rank and file before listing improvements Monday he said the administration must address to boost enthusiasm.

James McDermott, president of the Nassau Police Benevolent Association, said he and other union leaders — not Nassau’s acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter — are in a position to know how officers view their jobs.

“It’s hard for him to get a real feel for morale when he is the commissioner,” McDermott said at an event in Mineola honoring two officers. “Your cops are not going to tell you morale is low.”

McDermott’s comments came in response to Krumpter’s published remarks in Newsday Sunday in which he told his officers to quit if they don’t like their jobs or believe prospects are better elsewhere.

Nassau County police officers are among the highest-paid in the region, Krumpter said, earning an average salary of $125,000 to $130,000 a year. That’s on top of the generous health and pension benefits, he said.

“If someone can’t be happy with that on the Nassau police department, I am not sure they’ll be happy with any police department,” Krumpter said in an interview Monday.

In the last 18 months, only one police officer left the department and he did so for a better-paying job, Krumpter said. Others retired. The low turnover, Krumpter said, is an indication that officers are satisfied with their jobs.

The dueling public comments come on the heels of McDermott’s installation as the new union leader, and in a year when the police officers labor contract expires.

The union leader said factors contributing to low morale include a wage freeze as well loss of longevity pay — an annual stipend based on the officers’ years of service. Officers in the Fifth and Seventh precincts are forced to work in decrepit conditions where sewage had backed up in years past, he said.

“In the Fifth Precinct,” McDermott said, “I know they have bags over windows to keep the cold air from coming in.”

There are construction projects, worth more $100 million, underway, Krumpter said. There is always room for improvement, he said, but urged officers to focus on many improvements the county has undertaken.

McDermott said highway patrol officers drive cars that have logged more than 200,000 miles.

However, Krumpter said, out of the highway department’s fleet of 500 vehicles, only two have more than 200,000 miles, and they are spare cars that are used only when no others are available.

“But even if there is only one car out there with 200,000 miles on it, that’s one too many,” McDermott said.

Krumpter said the administration and the rest of the department “have a lot to be thankful for.”

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