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Nassau legislative committees OK contract with police detectives

Nassau County Detectives Association President John Wighaus at

Nassau County Detectives Association President John Wighaus at the Greater 2nd Baptist Church in Freeport on Feb. 21, 2019. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau lawmakers in committee meetings on Monday approved a labor contract designed to boost the number of detectives in the county by as many as 60 new recruits over the next year.

The 8.5-year deal between the administration of County Executive Laura Curran and the Nassau Detectives’ Association marks the first settlement between the county and one of its five major public employee unions since the expiration of all of their contracts at the end of 2017.

The detectives’ contract cleared three committees — Public Safety, Rules and Finance — before it is voted on by the full, 19-member legislature on Jan. 27.

“This is the framework for bargaining with the other unions which we look forward to doing,” Deputy County Executive for Public Safety Tatum Fox told legislators during her testimony.

Fox, along with county Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, said the new contract solves the problem of attracting new detectives.

“Recruitment, retention and restoring the ranks were the main objectives for negotiating this contract,” Fox said.

Also on Monday, the Finance and Rules committees approved a measure to accept $85 million in state grant money for parking structures on the 72-acres around the NYCB Live's Nassau Coliusem.

The agreement between the county executive's office and the state requires the approval of the legislature. The money would eventually be dispersed by the county to the developer RXR to begin construction on a $1.5 billion Nassau Hub, pending more county and Town of Hempstead approvals. 

Evelyn Tsimis, deputy county executive for economic development, told legislators this was "a key step" in spurring development at the Hub.

The new detectives' contract  includes raises that, when compounded, come to nearly 16% over the length of the contract. Under the new contract, the base salary of most of the county detectives would be $167,903 by 2025. The most experienced, top performers who go into the new grade would earn a base salary of $180,659 by 2025.

It incentivizes police officers to become detectives by paying them $6,249 for switching over, up from $2,400 in the previous contract. It also creates new steps and widens the pay gap between police officers and detectives, officials said. 

In the past, patrol officers had little financial incentive for promotion to the detective division resulting in some returning to police patrol.

John Wighaus, president of Nassau’s Detective Association, representing 300 detectives, said his union was “faced with a prolonged detective shortage with no relief in sight.”

“We felt it necessary for the sake of public safety and the preservation of the detective division to negotiate in good faith with the county and find a solution that attracts, retains and restored the rank of detective,” Wighaus said.

All detectives will receive raises of 2% each in 2020 and 2021, 2.5% each in 2022 and 2023, and 3% each in 2024 and 2025. Also, the detectives will receive a $2,000 lump sum payment covering 2018 and 2019.

Detectives also will work at least five additional tours each year, while new detectives will work an average of 12 more tours. The scheduling changes will result in more detectives policing county streets.

Majority Leader Legis. Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) in a prepared statement said: "While we still await a financial analysis, we are pleased to see that this contract appears to have bipartisan support. The Majority will continue to analyze the contract, and will closely look at the financial analysis before the full meeting of the legislature on January 27th."

"Members of the Minority Caucus will continue to closely evaluate this proposed agreement to ensure that it properly addresses the detective shortage expeditiously and in the most efficient, fiscally prudent manner possible for Nassau taxpayers," said Minority Leader Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) in a statement.

Collective bargaining is still pending with the county’s other unions: Civil Service Employees Association, Police Benevolent Association, Superior Officers Association and the Sheriff's Correction Officers Benevolent Association. None of the unions endorsed Curran’s 2017 campaign. Curran, a Democrat, took office January 2018.

Earlier Monday, the 19 members of the county legislature were inducted. Republicans continue to hold a 11-8 majority with Nicolello as presiding officer. 

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