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Nassau Legislature OKs $5.4M in funding for new police cars

Nassau County legislator Richard Nicolello, presiding officer, and

Nassau County legislator Richard Nicolello, presiding officer, and the rest of the Nassau County Legislature meets on Monday, Mar. 11, 2019 in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau lawmakers on Monday approved $5.4 million in emergency spending to replace the county’s aging patrol cars, two business days after the head of the police union publicly criticized the county executive’s office for neglecting the department’s needs.

The county will bond $3.8 million for a new fleet of marked cars, $1.1 million for a new police ambulance and $450,000 for specialty vehicles used by upper-level members of the police department.

“You can’t fall behind in law enforcement,” Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said after testifying before legislators. “It’s my job to make sure we stay up with it, and I intend to stay on it.”

Ryder said that “policing is very fluid, and sometimes you slip behind,” but that the department’s 177 posts have fully functional patrol cars. Ryder, who was hired by former Republican County Executive Edward Mangano, was reappointed by Laura Curran, a Democrat, who became county executive in January 2018.

The measure unanimously passed the full, Republican-controlled 19-member legislature. It would allow for the police department to purchase about 60 new patrol cars in the next four months.

The move comes after Nassau’s Police Benevolent Association held a news conference in Mineola  on Thursday showcasing the deteriorating condition of the department’s patrol vehicles.

At the time, James McDermott, president of the PBA, said of the 322 marked patrol cars: 60 are out of service; 120 have more than 100,000 miles; 52 have more than 150,000 miles; and 8 have more than 200,000 miles.

The union also presented photos showing marked cars with ripped seats, hanging wires, peeling paint and fenders held together with silver duct tape. McDermott said several requests to the Curran administration for new patrol cars went unanswered.

Ryder told legislators on Monday the patrol cars have been in 450 accidents in the past two years, incidents that have occurred while on calls. He said on average a patrol car lasts about  four years.

“The condition of the cars on post are not what they should be,” Ryder said during public testimony.

Legislative Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said: “The replacement and repair of emergency vehicles and ambulances approved by the legislature today are desperately needed by our police. The majority has been urging the administration since early this year to submit the capital funding for these vehicles.”

Also on Monday, McDermott said the union was “grateful that the county legislature continues to be the standard-bearer for police officer safety” and that “much more needs to be done to correct these dangerous conditions.”

“It is unfortunate that the county executive only went running to the legislature to cover for her negligence after the PBA exposed the horrific condition of the vehicle fleet to the public. We’re happy the legislature was able to see the importance of this issue and acted upon it quickly.”

Curran said the emergency amendment “ensures the police department has the resources to meet their vehicle needs and the ability to keep our neighborhoods safe.”

She said the funding was originally included in the county’s 2019 multiyear capital budget, which was proposed in October but never passed.

“Capital projects need to move forward, and we hope that the legislature acts quickly at their next session to pass the rest of the plan,” Curran said.

William Biamonte, chief of staff for the minority caucus, said Democrats were informed by the police department that although Curran funded police cars last year, there were several years in which the Mangano administration did not give them money for police cars.

“Unfortunately," Biamonte said, "a deteriorating fleet of police vehicles is yet another problem we inherited from the Mangano administration.”

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