Nassau County's newest police recruits hit the streets last week for the first time without some required equipment like raincoats and traffic vests, which union officials said could put the rookie officers in danger and hurt morale.
Police Benevolent Association president James Carver said in a letter Wednesday to acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter that police recruits had begun field training without being provided "raincoats, duty jackets and turtleneck shirts," which he called "disgraceful."
Additionally, Carver said, many were not issued traffic safety vests -- equipment that won't be delivered for another 30 days.
"How does that affect morale?" Carver asked in an interview Monday. "You're a brand-new cop, you come out of the academy . . . and it's raining and you don't even have a raincoat. . . . This is totally unacceptable. Who's doing the thinking there? You can't get this simple thing right, how are you supposed to do the big things? There is a breakdown here."
Krumpter, in an interview Monday, said the department had placed all of the equipment orders well in advance, but there was a "delay" in providing the trainees with raincoats due to a procedural issue during the county-mandated bidding process. Additionally, the police academy's schedule was expedited from the usual eight months to about six months to get officers on the street faster, shortening the typical timeline for ordering the items.
"The raincoats were delayed two weeks," Krumpter said. "Am I happy about the situation? No, I'm not happy. . . . We had to go through the normal procurement process. It's not like going into Macy's and buying a coat. They will get all of their equipment prior to graduation. We have it taken care of."
The equipment brouhaha comes as the department is poised to begin a new police training academy class Friday. The department has issued 75 offer letters, Krumpter said.
The current 130 trainee officers, who began at the police academy in May and are expected to graduate in early November, have been provided all of the necessary equipment -- protective vests, service weapons -- to participate in field training, which puts them on patrol with veteran officers for about six weeks, Krumpter said.
Krumpter said the duty jackets -- essentially winter coats -- and turtlenecks were ordered earlier this year and will arrive shortly, but he said it's not cold enough for officers to wear them now anyway.
The police department still has not received the 250 safety vests it ordered April 15 from Oceanside-based The Strong Group Inc. for $6,375, but Krumpter said officers were provided retirees' vests until the new ones arrive.
Krumpter said the Toronto-based manufacturer of the raincoats, Outdoor Outfits, has assured him the July 1 order of 250 coats at a cost of $33,675 will arrive in a week or two. He said another company put in a competing bid for a different jacket, which delayed the process, but the county's procurement office ultimately rejected the bid.
Carver said he was not satisfied with the explanations: "There should be no excuse. They've been ordering the raincoats since the beginning of time."