Nassau Police Officer Thomas Shevlin has been elected president of the Nassau Police Benevolent Association as the police union seeks a new labor agreement with incoming County Executive Bruce Blakeman.
Shevlin, a 16-year veteran of the police department who works as a counselor in its Employee Assistance Office, won the election by 153 votes, he said in an interview Tuesday. Shevlin received 779 votes and his opponent Michael Spadaccini, who had been elected to serve as president on an interim basis following the September retirement of James McDermott, got 626 votes.
Shevlin, who begins his four-year term on Jan. 1, takes the reins of the PBA at a pivotal time. The largest of Nassau's three police unions, the PBA was the only one unable to reach a contract agreement with outgoing County Executive Laura Curran, who lost reelection to Blakeman earlier this month.
"The contract, longevity, it’s a top priority," said Shevlin, referring to "longevity pay," which is additional compensation based on years of service.
"One of the reasons why it was voted down," he said, "was because the PBA board at the time did not have a connection with the membership. They lost touch."
Members of the PBA have worked without a contract since 2017 and last year rejected a deal by 143 votes that would have provided 25% pay raises over 8 1/2 years.
Blakeman, in a statement Tuesday, said: "I look forward to working with the PBA to negotiate an agreement that fairly recognizes the dangerous job of serving as a police officer while balancing that cost with the best interests of taxpayers."
Shevlin, 45, said the previous leaders of the PBA had become too political and forgot the union's main mission — to be a voice for members. "You can’t do things the old school way anymore," Shevlin said, adding that he plans to listen to officers' concerns instead of a top-down management style.
"The in-house fighting with the PBA, the fighting with all the other unions, the fighting with the commissioner, the fighting with the county executive, in my opinion, it was turning into a political party," said Shevlin. "You’re really just supposed to be working for police officers and their families."
Shevlin, a fierce advocate for mental health awareness who has been public about his own battles, was hired as a Nassau police officer on Nov. 1, 2005, and worked as a patrol officer in the Third Precinct for 12 years. He had been a PBA delegate for about 4 1/2 years.
For the past four years, he's worked in the department's Employee Assistance Office, which provides counseling and other mental health services to police officers. Shevlin, a state-certified counselor, said he has provided therapy services to officers and other first responders struggling with everything from suicidal thoughts to marriage troubles to substance abuse issues.
"I want the community to realize police officers are human," Shevlin said. "I bring a different element to this because I’m big into mental health and I want everybody to realize we’re not robots out there. We’re out there risking our lives for the community and for strangers."
Shevlin, who acknowledged his own alcohol and mental health issues, said he's been sober for more than 8 1/2 years.
"I went through my own struggles and difficulties personally and professionally years back," said Shevlin. "I went and sought help and realized there’s a big stigma out there with mental health, not just in the community, but definitely in the first responder and police culture."
Shevlin, whose father is a retired NYPD detective, was an NYPD officer for seven years before going to Nassau.
Shevlin joined the NYPD on August 31, 1998, and worked in patrol and anti-crime in the 70th Precinct in Brooklyn. Shevlin began working as an undercover in 2004 for the Organized Crime Control Bureau until he was hired as a Nassau police officer.
Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder praised Shevlin as a "stand-up guy" in an interview Tuesday.
"He’s just an advocate for all of us here in law enforcement when you’re struggling," said Ryder. "And he’s the kind of guy you want on your team. He’s the kind of guy that’s gonna be there for you."
Ryder said he's "confident" the county and the PBA will "reach a good conclusion" on a new contract.