Keechant Sewell, the chief of detectives for the Nassau Police...

Keechant Sewell, the chief of detectives for the Nassau Police Department, speaks to members of the press Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021, after being introduced by as the next NYPD commissioner, and the first woman to lead the department as its third Black commissioner. Credit: Craig Ruttle

The difference between police salaries paid by the NYPD and by Long Island’s county forces has forever been a topic of cross-border moaning and groaning. In their contract talks, city unions regularly cite the higher pay scales enjoyed by their Island neighbors. Budget hawks cite Nassau and Suffolk payouts to the people in blue as part of the high-tax problem. And on it goes.

This week, leadership changes at the top of these departments offer a few comparisons of interest.

Dermot Shea, the outgoing NYPD commissioner, is reported to be retiring at a $243,171 annual salary. He had 28 years in the nation’s biggest local police department, which has 35,000 officers, before he became commissioner in 2019. There is a scale involved — some of which reflects longevity and overtime.

Keechant Sewell, with 25 years in the Nassau County PD, has been chosen to succeed Shea. Nassau has a force of about 2,400. In her most recent post, as chief of detectives, she supervised about 350 people.

According to the Empire Center’s database of public salaries statewide, Sewell’s current Nassau salary is $235,380 — below Shea’s in the top New York spot, by less than $8,000.

Meanwhile, the city’s chief of department, Rodney Harrison, has been hired as the new commissioner of the Suffolk County Police Department, about the size of Nassau’s. Serving as chief with the Civil Service rank of captain, Harrison, with 30 years on the city force, has been making $241,116, according to the Empire database.

The man he succeeds, Stuart Cameron, is a 37-year veteran with a reported $290,229 salary.

It’s hard to imagine that pay raises alone lured Harrison to Suffolk and Sewell to her native New York City. There are other benefits that make up the package, as well as many factors in drawing candidates to seek these high-level jobs.

For the public, the only real question is how well they’ll succeed in their new roles.


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