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Letters: Public jobs often tough, pay little

Crews from the Town of North Hempstead work

Crews from the Town of North Hempstead work on a tree felled by Tropical Storm Irene. (Aug. 28, 2011) Credit: Howard Schnapp

I spent nearly 30 years as a Suffolk County police officer, working in several commands including precinct patrol, the canine section and the detective division ["Police officer pay is galling," Letters, Dec. 31].

During that time, I experienced several narrow escapes from danger.

I wonder if the letter writer would be willing to leave his family every night and enter a factory, alone with a canine at 3 a.m., to search for and arrest a burglar, knowing the burglar could see every move. I had no idea where he was hiding or if he was pointing a weapon at me.

Perhaps the writer would not mind tracking and arresting an escaped and armed prisoner from the Riverhead jail who buried himself deep in the woods in Upton.

Or maybe the writer would not mind staring down the barrel of a handgun while trying to capture an armed robber, or spending several hours in 10-degree weather and knee-deep snow while looking for a lost blind person. After local police and fire personnel failed to find him, I located the man, who was suffering from hypothermia, within an hour.

I was happy to do it, and I am proud to say I earned every dollar I was paid. Try walking a mile in my shoes.

Vincent J. Rakoczy, Yaphank

Editor's note: The writer is a retired police detective.

The letter writer states, "My advice to any young person who wants to be successful financially, without incurring the risk of starting a business or the expense and toil of learning a trade, is to become a municipal worker on Long Island."

To lump all municipal workers in with the police is wrong. Most municipal workers do not earn anywhere near the salaries the writer mentioned, especially if they work for Nassau County, which is entering its fourth year of Nassau Interim Finance Authority-imposed wage freezes.

A Nassau County correction officer for 20 years, I see many fellow officers stuck at under $30,000 in annual salary, even though we have a contract that is not being honored by the county. Many of these officers risk their lives every day and are on the verge of losing their homes because of the pay freeze.

Sure, there may be some highly trained, veteran police officers making the salaries mentioned, after working overtime, but this is not the norm. If the writer thinks it's easy being a police or correction officer, open to making life-or-death decisions in an instant, he is welcome to try.

My advice to any young person is, if you want to be able to buy food and pay your bills, stay as far away from a municipal job as possible.

John Ward, Centereach