Nassau has begun a pilot program that for the first time requires a minimum number of county detectives to be on duty in all eight police precincts.

An administrative order issued last week mandates that three detectives be on duty at the start of each shift in the First, Third and Fifth precincts, and that two detectives must begin each shift in the remaining precincts.

Under past police practice, two detectives have been on duty at the beginning of shifts at county precincts.

While the Superior Officers Association and Police Benevolent Association have minimum staffing language in their contracts, the Detectives Association has not had a similar requirement.

Unions usually want minimum staffing, which they say protects the public by ensuring that there are enough police in all areas at all times. County officials, however, generally argue that they need the flexibility to decide how to assign officers in order to save money and improve efficiency.

Even with the increased number of detectives at several of the precincts, County Executive Edward Mangano says he will save money by reassigning detectives from special details. He has said the pilot program will be evaluated after six months.

"This is another action taken by County Executive Mangano to put more officers on the streets while reducing overtime costs incurred by taxpayers," said aide Brian Nevin.

County Comptroller George Maragos, who has publicly complained about labor rules that restrict the county's ability to manage its employees, said Friday in response to the order: "The economic benefit of having minimum manning of detectives is difficult to quantify and may be minimal."

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