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Suffolk detectives get new six-year contract with raises of 11%

The Suffolk County Legislature approved a $40 million

The Suffolk County Legislature approved a $40 million contract for police detectives Tuesday. Credit: Heather Walsh

The Suffolk County Legislature approved a new police detectives contract Tuesday that will cost the county an additional $40 million while giving 11.25% raises over six years.

The Suffolk County Detectives Association contract will increase base salaries from $58.6 million total in 2019 to $65.7 million in 2024, county officials said. But that raise will cumulatively cost the county an additional $19 million, plus increased costs for benefits and overtime, according to the legislature’s Budget Review Office. 

The total cost of the contract was not available Tuesday night. 

The newest contract follows the Police Benevolence Association and Superior Officers Association contracts, union president David Gallagher said. The 345-member union made the same “significant concessions” that those law enforcement unions did, including capping sick time and longevity pay, he said.

“There’s nothing in ours that nobody else has,” Gallagher said.

With the detective contract, county officials have in the last year signed off on union contracts that are expected to cost about $460 million more in total than previous contracts, according to budget review reports.

Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), who abstained on Tuesday's vote along with Legis. Anthony Piccirillo (R-Holtsville), questioned how the county would pay for such expensive contracts.

“We have no choice,” said Jennifer McNamara, the county’s director of labor relations. “We have to negotiate contracts or arbitrate them.”

County Executive Steve Bellone’s administration has said that the county would save $40 million annually by requiring all employees to pay into their health care for the first time.

Detectives will see their pay raised 2.25% this year and 1% every January and July through 2023 under the 2019-2024 contract. In 2024, they will get 1.5% raises in January and July.

The top base salary will be $174,000 a year by 2024, up from $155,000, Gallagher said. Those figures do not include other pay benefits, such as overtime and longevity pay.

Detectives will reach that top step sooner, according to Budget Review's report. The 10-to-12-step pay scale for detectives promoted after 2013 will be reduced to nine steps. Detectives promoted before 2013 will keep their four-step system.

Some costs might be offset through linking salaries for detectives hired after 2012 to police officer salaries, according to budget review. 

Also Tuesday, the legislature approved several key appointments, including:

  • Dr. Gregson Pigott, of Greenlawn, as health commissioner. Pigott has worked for the department since 2009, including as director of the Minority Health Office and Emergency Medical Services.Dr. James Tomarken, who served as commissioner since 2009, is retiring this month.
  • Natalie Wright, of Central Islip, as economic development commissioner. Wright has served as acting commissioner since July after Commissioner Theresa Ward resigned.
  • Dennis Brown, of Huntington, will be director of the Real Property Tax Service Agency after serving as county attorney. Brown will be paid $145,560 in the new role, down from $173,226. Chief Deputy County Attorney Lynne Bizzarro will become acting county attorney. 

The legislature also approved the creation of a chief diversity officer for the first time. Retha Fernandez, project director for the State of Black Long Island Equity Council, will work to diversify the workforce, Bellone announced in December. About 75% of county employees, excluding sworn law enforcement officers, are white, which is not reflective of the county population, Bellone’s office said.

Legislators and residents also debated bills that would restrict smoking in apartment, condo and co-op buildings to limit secondhand smoke. Legis. Samuel Gonzalez’s (D-Brentwood) bill, based on similar legislation in 63 California municipalities, would prohibit smoking in units. Legis. Tom Cilmi’s (R-Bay Shore) bill would restrict smoking in building common areas. Neither bill was voted on Tuesday.

“If one person smokes in the building, everyone smokes,” said Paulette Orlando, who works for the American Lung Association Tobacco Action Coalition of Long Island. “Everyone should be able to breathe freely in their own home.” 

And a bipartisan group of legislators announced they reached an agreement on “Ban the Box” legislation, which would restrict employers from asking about criminal histories in job applications. They will present the bill at a later meeting.  Gonzalez said he is working on amending the bill, which failed to pass in the legislature last year, with Legis. Susan Berland (D-Dix Hills) and Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst). About 30 people came to the legislator to support banning the box.

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