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PBA: Curran ignored requests for new squad cars

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Even before leaving their squad cars, Nassau County cops are exposed to dangerous conditions, the Police Benevolent Association said. On March 5, union officials said dozens of police vehicles are falling apart — putting the lives of officers and residents in jeopardy — and that Nassau County Executive Laura Curran has ignored requests for new ones.

“This is not how the Nassau County Police Department, or how Nassau County, is supposed to be,” PBA President James McDermott said at a press conference in Mineola. “We, the Nassau County police officers, cannot be effective without basic resources.”

The union displayed photos showing police cars with ripped seats, exposed metal and wires, peeling paint and fenders being held together with duct tape. McDermott said the cars have broken down after years of constant use. “They’re old cars,” he said, adding many of them were first bought more than 10 years ago. “These cars get beat up and they have to be replaced.” Some cars have broken down while officers were on duty, McDermott added, and the number of mechanics has dropped from 75 to 20 in recent years.

While neither officers nor residents have been injured inside the cars, McDermott said it was a matter of time before someone got hurt. He also said response times would suffer with each car taken out of service. “When you take one out … there’s only one patrol being done instead of two patrols,” he said. “This will certainly lead to deaths and serious injuries.”

Christine Geed, a spokeswoman for Curran, said additional police funding is included in the county’s capital budget plan, including $3.6 million for 2019 and $8.6 million in the multiyear plan.

“We would have been happy to inform the PBA of this, but they preferred to hold a press conference before picking up the phone,” Geed said in an email. “We welcome the PBA’s advocacy for the passage of this budget, which provides the critical funding our law enforcement needs to keep us safe.”

Of the Nassau County Police Department’s 322 marked cars, 60 of them are unusable, 120 have more than 100,000 miles, 52 have more than 150,000 and 8 have more than 200,000. Additionally, the NCPD’s detention bus (used to transfer prisoners) has been out of service for two months, forcing the department to use the county sheriff’s bus.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat, has ignored multiple requests for new cars, McDermott said. “The primary, most essential function of government is to provide safety to its residents,” the union president said, “and yet the county executive has failed the residents of Nassau County by allowing the police fleet to fall apart.”

The county has placed a bid for up to 65 new cars, according to the PBA, a number that would still leave the NCPD with a deficit of vehicles. McDermott could not provide a number for how much it would take to replenish the fleet. “I’m not here to discuss how much the fleet is,” he said, “…I’ve never seen it in such a decrepit state.”

Most cars were still in good condition when Ed Mangano, former Nassau County executive, left office in 2017, McDermott said. The PBA, along with four other public employee unions, has been locked in contract negotiations with the county for more than a year.