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Amityville trustees considering creating the new position of police commissioner

The Amityville Police Department would get civilian leadership under a controversial village board proposal to create the position of police commissioner.

Under the proposal, slated for a public hearing Monday, the commissioner would supervise newly appointed Police Chief Glenn C. Slack but also focus on planning, management and administration of the department.

Slack, who has been interim chief since June, when the previous chief and the department's lieutenant resigned, was sworn in last week. Slack would retain much of the day-to-day authority over policing and training, areas over which the commissioner would have "limited direct powers," according to a copy of the proposal.

No salary for the commissioner's position has been publicly discussed.

Amityville trustees floated the idea months ago as part of a broad effort to make village government cheaper and more efficient, consolidating some Village Hall jobs and looking for other savings as they wrestle with finances that have earned the village a perennial place on the state comptroller's list of fiscally stressed municipalities.

"The challenge on this board for the last few years has been how to deliver vital services and do so at an affordable cost," trustee Nick LaLota said at a village board meeting last week.

The creation of a commissioner's position would do both, he added in an interview. The commissioner would do much of the work previously done by the lieutenant but more cheaply, saving the village about $100,000 a year and letting Slack focus on policing, rather than paperwork, LaLota said.

The proposal has already drawn opposition from a number of quarters. The department has 23 officers.

"I don't think we need a commissioner. What we need are police officers," Slack said in an interview this week, citing two empty sergeants' slots in the department. He and a full-time administrator have handled the department's administrative work since June, he added.

Trustee Kevin Smith described the proposed position as redundant and "a waste of taxpayer dollars."

Amityville PBA president Chris Mullin slammed the idea in a statement released by a representative, calling it "clearly not in the interest of public safety, but politics."

Union leaders and trustees have feuded publicly for months over issues related to police officer pay, which some trustees have said is unsustainably high.

While Nassau and Suffolk County police departments have commissioners, along with a handful of smaller Nassau forces, it's "unusual" for a department the size of Amityville's to have both a commissioner and a chief, said New York State Association of Chiefs of Police president Stephen Conner, who also serves as assistant MTA police chief.

Maria Haberfeld, chair of the Department of Law & Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, criticized the proposal.

"It's not a good mix, the civilian and the sworn," she said. "It's a power struggle."

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