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Nassau police vehicles deteriorating and in short supply, union says

Nassau PBA president James McDermott said in a news conference on Wednesday that the department's patrol cars are old and pose a danger to public safety. The short supply of functioning cars may compromise officers' response times, he added. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County’s police patrol cars are old, deteriorating and in short supply, putting officers in danger of breaking down on the road and compromising response times, the head of the county's largest police union said Wednesday.

James McDermott, president of the Nassau Police Benevolent Association, 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
  • 8 have more than 200,000 miles

“The primary and most essential function of government is to provide safety to its residents,” said McDermott. “ … No matter how good we are at our jobs we need a fully functioning fleet.”

At a news conference in Mineola, the union presented photos showing marked cars with ripped seats, hanging wires, peeling paint and fenders held together with silver duct tape. 

McDermott said a request for 60 new cars is pending, although the number won't be enough. He did not have details of the cost to bring the fleet fully up to date. 

Christine Geed, spokeswoman for Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat, said additional funding for Nassau police is included in the administration's capital budget plan, which the Republican-controlled County Legislature has not yet approved.

Geed said the capital plan includes $3.6 million in such funding for 2019, and the multiyear capital plan contains $8.6 million.

"We would have been happy to inform the PBA of this, but they preferred to hold a press conference before picking up the phone," Geed said. "We welcome the PBA’s advocacy for the passage of this budget, which provides the critical funding our law enforcement needs to keep us safe.” 

In a statement, Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said, "Every one of the 177 posts in Nassau County have an operable marked police vehicle assigned to it. In the world of policing, it remains very fluid — based on various factors as these vehicles are being operated on 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Our fleet service bureau is working diligently to replenish and repair any vehicle that is in need of maintenance."

McDermott said the condition and supply of patrol cars can impact public safety in ways including the ability to set up police perimeters at crime scenes.

"We have petitioned the county multiple times asking them to fix this problem," McDermott said. 

The PBA is one of Nassau’s five major public employee unions, all of which are negotiating new contracts with the county.

McDermott also said the department’s 18-year-old bus to transport individuals in custody is not operational. He said officers are using a bus on loan from the county sheriff’s department.

Additionally, McDermott said the number of mechanics able to work on repairs to the police fleet have dropped to 25 from 70. 

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