The Republican leader of the Suffolk County Legislature, seeking to rein in police overtime costs, wants police to explore speeding up training for new county officers who already have completed state-approved training elsewhere.
Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) is asking the police to do a study within 90 days on the feasibility of expediting training for officers who already hold a valid certificate from the Municipal Police Training Council. McCaffrey put the proposal before county lawmakers last week.
"I'm not the guy who knows or is telling them what to do," McCaffrey said. "I'm asking them to look into and explore the possibilities."
McCaffrey said he was spurred to move forward by recent departmental disclosures that overtime costs last year were $8 million higher than the $30.4 million budgeted. The department has budgeted $35 million this year for overtime. A spokesman for the administration of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said paying overtime was cheaper than hiring more officers.
But McCaffrey argued that "we pay a veteran officer $61 an hour and about $100 an hour for overtime," adding that under the new police contract new officers make $21 an hour.
He said shortening the academy for new officers already trained could save the county money by putting lower-cost police on the street faster.
Deputy Chief Kevin Fallon said the department has looked at the issue, but in the past it was "never thought to be a good idea."
He said county training goes beyond council standards, including making all officers emergency medical technicians and providing training in the use of stun guns. He said academy training also is part of the hiring process, in which those who lack the temperament or physical ability for the job can be winnowed out.
Noel DiGerolamo, Suffolk Police Benevolent Association president, said the idea wasn't "feasible," noting suburban policing is far different than in urban areas.
"New York City polices by saturation," said DiGerolamo, a city police officer before coming to Suffolk. "In Suffolk County, we don't have foot posts -- we have one person per vehicle, who covers a tremendous amount of geographic area with less officers."
Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said he has spoken to McCaffrey about his proposal and called the idea "something worth exploring."
"The terrain may be different but there still has to be some basic stuff that is similar and may not have to be repeated," he said of officers coming from New York City.