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Islip public safety department undergoes overhaul

New leadership adds training and accountability to the office after its former commissioner was convicted in a hiring scandal.

Anthony D'Amico, Islip town public safety commissioner, attends

Anthony D'Amico, Islip town public safety commissioner, attends an active shooter training exercise given by Kevin Peterson, protective security advisor with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, at Islip Town Hall on Monday. Photo Credit: James Carbone

A new training program is the latest example of change in  the Islip Town Public Safety Department, which officials said has been reorganized under new leadership after a hiring scandal led to the conviction of its former commissioner.   

Officials said they have worked to strengthen accountability for department leaders and assure workers that their supervisors care about them in the two years since Anthony D'Amico took over the department from former commissioner, John J. Carney.

“They’re good people,” D’Amico said of  department employees. “It’s a matter of treating them right and boosting morale and giving them the tools to do the job right.”

The public safety department, which has about 100 full-time employees and nearly doubles in size in the summer, includes park rangers, harbor masters, fire marshals, emergency management and code enforcement. Employees also keep order in town hall meetings, act as money couriers and remove abandoned vehicles from town streets.  

The department has undergone several changes since D'Amico, a former NYPD officer and police academy instructor, was appointed to the top job in March 2017. He replaced Carney, who resigned in September 2016 and was convicted in April 2017 of three misdemeanors for forcing fire marshal candidates to decline jobs to hire favored candidates who scored lower on the Civil Service exam. Carney was sentenced to community service. 

D'Amico said officials have created clearer lines of reporting between public safety employees and supervisors by establishing four bureaus — investigative, patrol, support services and emergency management. They also launched peace officer training  for new hires in his department. 

While officials said they focus on the future, and employees have moved on emotionally from the hiring scandal, new trainings aim partly to boost morale, which can reduce any lingering negative feelings about former supervisors. A "happy workforce" is also more productive and efficient, D'Amico said.  

“We’re trying to equip everybody with what they need to be the best employee they can and have residents of the town getting absolutely the best services they can,” Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter said.

Employees have already undergone a leadership seminar, a de-escalation class and an active shooter training, D’Amico said.

They are also trained in administering Narcan to reverse opiate overdoses. They have taken optional personality tests to identify shortfalls and “become a better leader, a better person,” D’Amico said. 

About a year ago, officials held a anti-gang  training, which is especially important in a town where the MS-13 gang is a "huge threat"   and gang-related murders  have made national headlines, D’Amico said.   The NYPD last month put out an alert to officers, warning of intelligence reports that MS-13 was targeting NYPD officers who lived in the Brentwood and Central Islip areas. 

“Our guys are in uniform as well, and people don’t distinguish whether they work for the town for public safety or the NYPD,” D’Amico said. “They’re all in uniforms and all potential targets.”

Kara Welling, an executive assistant to D'Amico and Deputy Commissioner Anthony Prudenti, said more trainings have been valuable.

“The more you invest in your people," Welling said, "the greater the returns you’ll see.”

The training program so far has included:

  • A seminar for supervisors in leadership skills and values by a retired NYPD transit chief
  • A "verbal judo" class on how to de-escalate situations
  • An active shooter training for all town employees by the Department of Homeland Security
  • Personality tests to identify employee strengths and weaknesses

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