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Use-of-force rule makes sense for Nassau County police

A Nassau County police car sits outside of

A Nassau County police car sits outside of the 6th Precinct in Manhasset on Oct. 10, 2011. Credit: Howard Schnapp

There are times when the demands of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association stretch the bounds of imagination, even if they may be contractually legitimate. That’s the case with a complaint the PBA has filed against the Nassau County Police Department, alleging that a new policy requiring officers to file reports when they use force toward a civilian violates its contract.

PBA president James Carver says the issue isn’t the department’s rules on use of force. And he says the union doesn’t have a huge problem with officers having to file such a report, although he prefers that superior officers do the paperwork, rather than the cops. What upsets the union is the fear that such reports might play into officer evaluations when promotions, transfers or special-unit assignments are made. Carver says how such evaluations are done is subject to collective bargaining and cannot be unilaterally changed by Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter without a negotiation with the union.

It may be true that the state and county laws, various court rulings and the PBA contract itself have left this a legally muddy issue. Krumpter says a county law passed in 2012 and upheld by the courts gives him control over discipline and over the evaluation process, regardless of the collective bargaining agreement. Carver says the court decision gives Krumpter control only over disciplinary measures, not evaluations.

And what does the contract actually say? What contract? There’s no single Nassau County PBA contract. There hasn’t been for more than 20 years. The last single-document police contract for Nassau covered 1992-95, according to Carver. It was amended by arbitration awards in 1997 and 2003, as well as five or six additional revisions and hundreds of memorandums of understanding.

It’s all so confusing that the Nassau Interim Finance Authority has demanded a copy of “the contract” from the county, which county and police officials are trying to compile. But even that will likely be incomplete, because, according to county officials, Nassau doesn’t possess all the pieces of the agreements. The PBA has every scrap of paper, though, and it understands them. That’s one reason the union so often seems to get the best of county officials.

Regardless of what the contract may say, in terms of common sense, good public policy and the proper management of a police department, it’s all crystal clear. NCPD officers should be required to file reports by the end of their shifts anytime they use physical force serious enough that the altercation results in an injury or a charge of resisting arrest, the standard Krumpter says would trigger this requirement.

Such reports should be part of an evaluations process, especially when an officer has too many such incidents or when the amount of force used is severe. Data from the reports should be mined to improve departmental training and policies.

The PBA would be wise to agree to such measures in the name of transparency and accountability. And the county would be wise to get its papers in order. — The editorial board