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EDITORIAL: Spats in Suffolk don't make anyone safer

Both the county legislature and the county executive have a proper role in managing the Suffolk County Police Department. But the two branches are locked in a brawl that seems like competitive micromanagement.

Controversy is not new to the department. Its history includes squabbles with the executive and the legislature, a commissioner who investigated a district attorney, and a state investigation of suspiciously high rates of confessions.

But the current sniping is particularly noxious. The nub of it: County Executive Steve Levy prioritizes cost-containment; legislators want more cops on the street. Levy's frugality initiatives have riled the Police Benevolent Association and lawmakers. The debate is exhausting and unproductive.

Recently, it's gotten zanier: The public safety chairman, Legis. Jack Eddington (I-Medford), subpoenaed documents. The police commissioner, Richard Dormer, produced them. Levy wrote to Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook), saying Eddington had released sensitive documents to the media. Lindsay wrote to say he released them, at Newsday's request, not Eddington, and at no danger to cops.

This mutual demonization is helping neither fiscal restraint nor public safety. What we need is five men in a room: Levy, Lindsay, Eddington, Dormer and PBA leader Jeff Frayler, to act like grown-ups, find ways to cut costs without hurting public safety, and end the constant, fruitless bickering. hN