The Nassau County Police Department is still lacking detectives, specifically at the Eighth Precinct, located at 299 Hicksville Rd. in Bethpage.
The Eighth Precinct reopened on April 10 after its doors closed in 2012, due to budget cuts from former County Executive Ed Mangano. At the reopening ceremony, current County Executive Laura Curran noted that Nassau County is currently in negotiations to fill the void of detectives. Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder was hopeful that problem would be resolved soon.
However, that isn’t the case.
According to John Wighaus, president of the Nassau County Detective Association, there are no detectives on duty at the recently reopened Sixth and Eighth precincts. The Sixth Precinct is located in Manhasset and covers part of the North Shore.
“The Sixth Precinct is not a fully functioning precinct,” Wighaus said. “There are no detectives. If a resident from the Sixth Precinct needs to speak with a detective, they will have to go to another precinct.”
Legislator John R. Ferretti Jr., who represents Levittown, is frustrated. On June 4, Ferretti and the legislature’s Public Safety Committee held a hearing with Curran and Ryder.
“If a resident goes to the Eighth Precinct that needs a detective, they’ll be redirected to the Second Precinct in Woodbury,” Ferretti said. “This is unacceptable to residents in Levittown, Bethpage and Farmingdale, who all utilize this precinct. Public safety is a priority. We have to put our money where our mouth is.”
Wighaus was invited to speak in front of the legislature at the committee hearing.
“As of today, the department is 51 detectives short of their budgeted amount,” Presiding Officer Richard J. Nicollelo said in a statement. “County Executive Curran needs to work with the detectives to fill the vacancies immediately. Nassau is in the midst of trying to fight a heroin and opioid abuse epidemic, protect its residents from violent MS-13 attacks and prevent seniors from being taken advantage of by online scams, among other things. Something has to be done.”
But the department is actually 53 detectives short of their budgeted amount, with a pair of detectives retiring on June 6. Currently, there are 307 detectives on staff. The budget created for the department currently stands at 360.
There have already been seven detectives in the past year who have handed in their detective badge and asked for a demotion to become a police officer again.
Another detective retired on June 13, bringing the total down to 306. Wighaus said he is expecting more retirements to come in July, which has potential to put the department’s numbers south of 300.
“Now, this job is really young,” Wighaus said. “Sixty percent of this job has less than six years on the job. There is a lot of experience leaving. We’re seeing the ramifications of the arbitration award.”
The arbitration award handed down in 2007, which lasted until 2012 and then was extended twice to 2015 and 2017, changed certain criteria that affected the steps or raises that detectives would get. The lack of financial incentives to become a detective from the arbitration award has seen a steady decrease in numbers from 20 years ago when there were 460 detectives and 10 years ago when there were 425.
Prior to the arbitration award, Wighaus said there used to be 250 police officers applying to the precincts to become detectives for only one or two open spots per precinct. Now, they only receive four or five applications across all of the precincts out of 2,300 police officers.
“There is only one problem, it’s that contract,” Detective Christopher Muchow, the second vice president of the detective association, said. “I highly doubt anywhere else in the United States, there is a union official alerting personnel and accounting to say ‘pay person X, Y [amount].’”
The union has been out of a contract for the last year and a half. By law, they must work under the last agreement and receive no pay increases. They also cannot strike.
The county and union have started negotiations on a new agreement, but Wighaus and Muchow want to change the step structure to its original form prior to the arbitration award and add more of a financial incentive in order to bring in new detectives.
“It’s like a family that got split up years ago,” Ryder said at the Eighth Precinct in April. “The last part is to get the detective division back, fully staffed, where they should be. We’re working very hard with the county executive and unions to make sure we can make that happen.”
—Additional reporting by Marco Schaden