Nassau police have reinstated a popular community-policing model, placing officers tasked with quickly resolving residents’ concerns back in precincts across the department.
The move reverses acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter’s May 2014 directive that saw 45 plainclothes officers, including “problem-oriented policing” cops and gang prevention officers, shifted back to patrol in an effort to save $4.4 million in overtime.
A total of 16 problem-oriented policing — or POP — officers, who work closely with residents to address crime concerns and quality-of-life issues, began working again in the precincts in late November, Krumpter said.
The reinstatement of POP cops was made possible through recent hiring, Krumpter said, including the department’s largest class in 20 years — 183 new officers who were sworn in in October and are set to graduate in May from the police academy.
“We got a lot of feedback from the community, that they missed the POP cops,” Krumpter said. “It was very important to the department; it was very important to me. It was something that everyone agreed. It was time to start moving back towards that direction.”
The controversial move about 18 months ago to scrap POP cops drew the ire of several community groups and some county legislators who said the loss would hurt community relations with the police.
But Krumpter said there had been no ill effects and the precinct’s commanding officers had still attended community meetings and will continue to do so.
Major crime in the county was down — about 6 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to police statistics, though homicides in Nassau were up in 2015 to 24, versus 18 in the previous year.
James Carver, president of the Nassau Police Benevolent Association, said residents felt like their concerns fell through the cracks.
“We were getting complaints from the community that there was nobody other than calling 911,” Carver said. “Graffiti, school issues — broken-windows-theory kind of stuff. It’s the little stuff that doesn’t seem like it’s annoying but after a while it builds up.
“I would have much preferred that they be back sooner, but I’m happy that they’re back,” Carver said. “We’re only back to where we were before and we need to build. As the department continues to hire, it’s my hope that they continue to expand this great program.”
The return of POP cops came after Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said he would nominate Krumpter, who has held the title of acting commissioner for the past two years, to be the permanent commissioner.
The permanent appointment requires the approval of the Nassau Legislature, which has yet to receive the formal nomination from Mangano, officials said. The body’s Democratic minority had criticized the loss of POP cops.
When POP cops were sent back to patrol, the department had about 2,100 sworn members. Increased hiring has brought that level to 2,361 as of last month, according to police statistics.
“For a long time, we were unable to do it because the department shrunk to a level that we were unable to support that. Now we’re at a position where we’re able to support it,” Krumpter said.
Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Elmont), who had bemoaned the loss of the program, particularly in Elmont’s Fifth Precinct, said he’s satisfied the program was brought back, citing it as an effective crime-fighting tool and an important component to fostering positive relationships between the police and community.
But he said he’d like to see the program expanded to include eight POP cops in each precinct, rather than the current two in each precinct.
“I can’t question his motivation as to why he reinstated the POP cops,” Solages said of Krumpter. “But it does come at a time when we are considering his qualifications for commissioner and we addressed on the record several issues, from POP cops to police precinct closures, and I’m glad they’re being addressed.”
Christina Brennan, a spokeswoman for Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), said: “Norma’s thrilled. She couldn’t be happier.”
The department “met and exceeded” the cost savings that the department had hoped to achieve — about $4.4 million — by assigning the POP cops and plainclothes officers back to patrol to save on overtime, Krumpter said. While the plainclothes officers returned to their assignments in early 2015, POP cops remained on patrol until November, Krumpter said.
A spokesman for the county comptroller’s office said the department’s 2015 overtime totals were still being compiled. Krumpter said the most recent numbers he saw show the department will record about 4 percent fewer overtime hours than in the previous year.
While the POP cops will continue to be supervised by senior officers in their precincts, Krumpter has designated Det. Sgt. Catrina Rhatigan, who worked briefly in the department’s Public Information Office, to “coordinate their activities.”
Rhatigan, who was recently named the deputy commanding officer of Community Affairs, declined an interview request.