Nassau County police and government officials on Wednesday proposed raising the salaries of part-time school crossing guards to alleviate what they called a “crisis“ with police officers filling in for the guards.
At a hearing at the Nassau County legislature, Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said he thought that raising the salaries could help bring in more part-time crossing guards and get cops back to their regular patrols.
Nassau police officers are being routinely removed from their patrol posts and assigned to school crossing guard duties as the county struggles to fill the civilian vacancies.
“We are hoping we get a recruitment at $25 an hour,” Ryder said. “We hope we can bring in qualified candidates to make sure we fill the positions.”
Crossing guards are paid $18 an hour to start, according to the police department. Part-time crossing guards, required to be Nassau residents and undergo a police background check, can expect to work as many as 17 hours a week.
The hearing was convened by Leg. Denise Ford, who chairs the Public Safety committee. “This is a crisis,” Ford said.
Officials said that by making police fill in for crossing guards, public safety was being put at risk.
Nassau had 400 full-time crossing guards as recently as 2012, said Jerry Laricchiuta, head of the CSEA union that represents many government employees. That number has dropped to 137. There are about 200 part-time crossing guards.
Officials said the county has a shortfall of at least 50 crossing guards.
As many as 50 to 70 vacancies a day are being filled by officers, the union has said. At times, the majority of officers on duty in a precinct are assigned as crossing guards and officers from other precincts are dispatched to cover 911 calls, creating longer response times, the union has said.
A spokeswoman for Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said the county is endorsing the $25 proposal.
“At the current part-time crossing guard salary of $18 an hour, we can’t compete in the current job market with record-low unemployment,” said the spokeswoman Christine Geed.
“We are preparing for September by raising the current part-time hourly rate to $25 an hour,” she said. “Nassau County will kick off an aggressive recruitment campaign to hire qualified crossing guards.”
Officials said they were hopeful that after Wednesday’s hearing the situation will improve.
“Today was huge,” Laricchiuta said.