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Nassau police chief reassigned over virus directive, documents show

Kevin Canavan in 2006 when he was a

Kevin Canavan in 2006 when he was a captain in the Fifth Precinct in Elmont. Credit: Newsday Staff/Karen Wiles Stabile

The Nassau County Police Department reassigned its chief of patrol after he told officers to use a union newsletter as toilet paper when issuing a directive on the departments' use of face masks during the coronavirus crisis, according to documents.

Chief of Patrol Kevin Canavan was assigned to the commissioner's office on a temporary basis effective Friday, according to a department personnel order obtained by Newsday. 

Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, in a written statement Friday, said: “This transfer is internal and in no way interrupts any of our daily operations. I am in the middle of a Pandemic Crisis and my top priority is to protect all of my members and the residents of Nassau County."

Canavan emailed patrol supervisors Tuesday afternoon what he called "the 10 commandments" in response to what he said were questions about officers' use of the highly in-demand N95 face masks, according to a copy of the email obtained by Newsday. 

"Don't use them as toilet paper," Canavan wrote of the masks. "The March Newsletter is out, use that first." 

James McDermott, president of the Nassau Police Benevolent Association, which puts out a monthly newsletter, declined to comment.

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Canavan's email also offered other advice. In red, large-sized capital letters, commandment number one said: "USE COMMON SENSE." 

He told officers that the department doesn't have an unlimited supply of the masks, to "use them when needed, not on every call" and "don't hoard them."

The nearly 35-year-department veteran also wrote: "Be good managers in controlling your supply — accountability," and further instructed "don't take them home for your family to use — buy yourselves bandannas." 

It's unclear how long Canavan's reassignment will last, but it resulted in a personnel shuffle. The order also designated Deputy Chief of Patrol Kenneth Lack as acting patrol chief. And Daniel Flanagan, currently the deputy chief of support, was named deputy chief of patrol, according to the order.

Canavan, a former precinct commander, has been a Nassau police officer since May 1985. He earned $240,866.16 in 2018, according to county payroll records. 

Kevin Black, the president of the Nassau Superior Officers Association, which does not represent Canavan, a three-star chief, said he has a "great deal of respect" for Canavan. 

"I think he did fine one through eight," Black said, referring to the commandments. "You do this job long enough and you develop a certain sense of humor. Suddenly you look at the people around you and they're not laughing … He went for the sarcasm, I guess, and people take offense." 

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