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Letter: Sheriff keeps highways safe

Suffolk County Executive, Steve Bellone, announces that Suffolk

Suffolk County Executive, Steve Bellone, announces that Suffolk County police will resume patrols on the LIE and Sunrise Highway in September, during a press conference at his office in Hauppauge. PBA president Noel DiGerolamo, looks on. (Aug. 2, 2012) Credit: James Carbone

A recent letter from a retired Suffolk County police detective made the outlandish assertion that Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco assumed patrol of the Long Island Expressway and Sunrise Highway as a form of self-promotion and "empire building" ["Patrols, pay and Suffolk cops," Aug. 16].

While Newsday has hailed the tentative Police Benevolent Association agreement as a model process for other municipalities, the underlying motivation and the fiscal impact of the resulting agreement have yet to be thoroughly vetted by the media, the county legislature or even the county executive's own budget office.

Plain and simple, the 2008 decision to assign sheriff's deputies to highway enforcement was for public safety. Former County Executive Steve Levy removed Suffolk County police officers from the two state highways, and it was clear that the state police were not going to provide coverage. DeMarco filled the void with deputy sheriffs.

Ultimately this has worked to the advantage of the taxpayer in lower cost and exceptional service. Deputy sheriffs earn roughly $42,000 less and work 320 hours more per year than county police officers. Deputy sheriffs receive overtime after 43 hours in a week, while overtime for police officers kicks in after 35 hours.

The sheriff's office has provided outstanding highway services to Suffolk's residents. This was accomplished through efficient management of personnel without driving up overtime costs.

Kerry M. Kneitel, Riverhead

Editor's note: The writer is the chief deputy sheriff for Suffolk County.