Newsday’s editorial on excessive police costs in Suffolk County is the best and most overdue editorial on the subject in decades [“What price for police?” Sept. 12]. However, Newsday’s suggestion to let the public vote on whether to tax itself more is misguided.
Getting efficiencies out of the department is very difficult. Nevertheless, my administration was able to make substantial progress — though much of it has been reversed — by having civilians fill positions when possible, by scheduling more efficiently and by placing less expensive sheriff’s deputies on the highways.
True relief for taxpayers can only come about from one of three drastic options.
1) The State Legislature could finally grow a backbone and do away with mandatory arbitration. It could also eliminate overtime from being factored into police pensions and stop sick days from being cashed out upon retirement. New York City doesn’t allow cash-outs.
2) Implement a control board that would give county management the statutory authority to undo the burdensome contracts.
3) Abolish the police department and have sheriff’s deputies perform their duties, as is the norm in most counties in the state. We can grandfather in the present officers at the present pay scale, but require that all new replacements be sheriff’s deputies, who currently go through the same training at the same academy.
Yes, these are radical steps, but financial collapse may be the alternative.
Steve Levy, Bayport
Editor’s note: The writer was Suffolk County executive from 2004 to 2011.