Nassau Police Chief of Department Steven Skrynecki told a community gathering last night that the department's contingent of plainclothes officers remains "very robust" despite its recent transfer of 45 of them to patrol duty to save $4.4 million in police overtime.
But Skrynecki added later, "We are anxious to restore that component to our force as soon as possible."
He was responding to questions from Gina Piskin, president of the Merrick School Board, and Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) about the transfers -- which include POP, or problem-oriented police officers, who work closely with the community -- at a meeting of the South Merrick Community Civic Association. Earlier, Denenberg and other community leaders called for the department to reverse the transfer, saying it jeopardizes public safety.
Pam Dempsey, Wantagh Civic Association president and a former Bronx prosecutor, who said she moved to Nassau because it has a low crime rate, had said then: "Messing around with how a police department relates to a community is not right."
The reassigned officers also include 12 from the Gang Abatement Program, which operated in plain clothes in Roosevelt, Uniondale, Freeport and Hempstead.
Dempsey and a half-dozen civic association members from Seaford, Merrick, Bellmore and Baldwin joined Denenberg and Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) outside the police department's Seventh Precinct to decry Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter's recent order.
The move is designed to curb the department's spiraling overtime costs. The officers will return to plainclothes duty in 2015, officials said.
Denenberg criticized County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, and Krumpter for failing to control police overtime for the last three years, in part by not hiring enough officers. The force has about 2,100 officers. A police academy class of about 140 will graduate this year.
"To ask the sector cars to do everything is an impossible job," Denenberg said, "It's not good enough to say we have the same number of sector cars."
Mangano's spokesman, Brian Nevin, had called Denenberg's news conference "nothing more than a campaign stunt." Denenberg is running for State Senate.
"Acting Commissioner Krumpter is . . . temporarily reassigning officers for the remainder of the year and not asking residents for any additional property taxes," Nevin said in an email, adding, "100 officers in the Bureau of Special Operations (BSO) and Criminal Intelligence Rapid Response Team (CIRRT) . . . continue to operate within all precincts, performing plainclothes investigations."