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Levy, lawmaker clash over police staffing bill

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and his chief police critic in the legislature have found a new battlefield - a bill that would require legislative approval before the police department axes, cuts or transfers any of its commands to another agency.

Levy has lambasted the bill, labeling it "one of the most anti-taxpayer pieces of legislation I have ever seen," claiming it would hand over control of the department to the police union. "It's mind-boggling to me that a legislator has now tried to put in a bill to stop the department from running more efficiently," Levy said.

However, the sponsor, Legis. Jack Eddington (I-Medford), chairman of the public safety committee, said the legislation is needed because Levy and his police commissioner, Richard Dormer, often make changes without consulting lawmakers, even though the legislature is the county's official policy-making body. He said significant changes should be aired and debated before action is taken.

"I believe we should get an explanation for major policy shifts," Eddington said.

The proposal is just the latest battle in an ongoing war since Levy got deputy sheriffs in 2008 to take over from county police highway patrols on the Long Island Expressway and Sunrise Highway, a move Levy undertook unilaterally.

Levy maintains the highway change has saved the county $12 million and the bill would handcuff Dormer's ability to make changes quickly. The police union has challenged the legality of the takeover, and they say Levy is cannibalizing needed special units like community policing just to keep patrol cars filled.

But Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), who is concerned violent crime increases in his community, backs Eddington's proposal. "It's unfortunate that it's gotten to the point where we have to legislate communication between the legislative and executive branch," he said.

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