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Nassau PBA, county reach contract deal with $3,000 bonus to officers for wearing body cameras

Nassau County PBA President James McDermott.

Nassau County PBA President James McDermott. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County police officers would each receive $3,000 annual cash payments to wear body cameras under a newly negotiated labor deal between County Executive Laura Curran and the county's largest police union that would, for the first time, equip the force with the video technology.

Nassau Police Benevolent Association President James McDermott, in a nearly 6-minute video message sent to his union members this week, said the annual stipend will be added to officers' base pay at the end of the contract, which increases eventual pension liabilities for the county. McDermott said the PBA was the only county police union to win such a concession.

"No deal is perfect, but in this deal, the good far outweighs the bad," said McDermott, who spoke in broad strokes about the agreement he helped negotiate, while appealing directly to his membership to approve the pact. He did not provide any details of the rollout or implementation of the planned body camera program.

Newsday reported last week that the police union and the county had come to a tentative 8 1/2-year deal that "addresses the use" of body-worn cameras. But the precise terms of the deal, including pay increases and the overall cost to the county, were not disclosed.

The union membership must vote on the pact, and then it must be approved by both the Nassau County Legislature and the county's fiscal control board.

According to McDermott's video message, in addition to the body camera payments, all officers would receive $2,500 upon ratification of the contract, and another payment of $2,420 on Jan. 1, 2025.

And officers would receive another two cash payments: $6,480, after 6 years on the job, which he said equates to over a 5% pay increase and $3,750, after 15 years of completed service, he said. Both payments will be rolled into officers' base pay.

At the close of the contract, the pay increases would equal "an average of 25%," McDermott said, though he did not provide specific figures.

Earlier this week. the legislature voted to hire former Republican State Sen. Michael Balboni as a consultant for the rollout of the body camera program, which is tentatively slated to begin in September 2021.

A spokesman for Curran declined to comment Thursday. Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun, a spokesman for Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, said: "We are unable to provide comment on any unionized contractual negotiations."

McDermott did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The PBA follows the county’s two other police unions — the Superior Officers Association and the Detectives' Association — in negotiating deals with the county, after working without a contract since the end of 2017.

The legislature last month approved an 8½-year contract for the SOA, awarding pay raises totaling 15% and also giving officers a $3,000 stipend upon implementation of the county's body camera program, which is slated to begin by next September.

Police reform advocates rallied Thursday night outside the Nassau government building in Mineola to call for a delay on voting for the PBA contract and a repeal of the SOA contract until the state-mandated police reform plans are completed.

McDermott said in the video that under the new proposed contract Nassau police officer salaries would surpass those of their neighbors to the east. "Our salaries used to trail Suffolk by a lot," he said. "This deal will not only bring us to parity, we’re going to surpass them."

McDermott described negotiations as an "uphill battle" from the beginning. He pointed to an 11-step pay schedule for new hires, a requirement to work "additional" tours and what he called "changes" to health care contributions as union concessions.

"We were forced to do certain things because of the SOA and the DAI's contract, but we fought through it and we got a good contract," he said. "It created a pattern. Pattern bargaining is always a hurdle."

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