Having worked without a contract for nearly two years, the Nassau County Detectives Association is pushing for a new agreement while continuing its campaign for the county to resolve a shortage of detectives at eight police department precincts.
Although the Glen Cove Police Department is not affiliated with the Nassau County Police Department, Lt. Detective John Nagle of the GCPD said the department regularly works with the NCPD’s 2nd and 6th precincts. County detectives assist with a variety of cases such as homicide, arson and those involving bombs.
Association President John Wighaus, a detective since 1997, said the overarching issues are the pay structure, which includes “steps” for detectives to reach top pay, coupled with responsibilities that include handling the details of several cases simultaneously, interviewing victims, arresting and interrogating suspects and answering to multiple levels of prosecutors.
Police officers receive a $2,400 raise after being promoted to detective, but they must complete eight 12-month steps to earn detective pay. Then they must complete 75 months, just over six years, of steps to earn top detective pay. This all stems from a 2007 arbitration decision that lasted for five years and was extended in 2015 and 2017.
The county police department is budgeted for 360 detectives, but there are 308 currently on duty. Wighaus said that with the reopening of the 6th Precinct, in Manhasset, and the 8th, on the eastern end of the county, the detective force is stretched even thinner, as 3rd Squad detectives are handling 6th Precinct cases and 2nd Squad detectives are working 8th Precinct cases. There were 460 detectives 20 years ago, Wighaus said, and 425 a decade ago.
“Getting the detective shield was the pinnacle of police work,” Wighaus said, adding that when he put in for detective, every precinct typically had 20 to 30 officers doing the same. “Now it’s [become] a pariah to most officers.”
He addressed the County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee on June 4, and claimed that there was bipartisan support for resolving the contract dispute and ratcheting up detective staffing levels. “We would like to get something fair in collective bargaining to incentivize and retain these police officers who want to be designated detectives,” Wighaus said.
Nagle said he believed the steady decline in the number of detectives was a direct result of the contractual issues. “Sometimes it’s more beneficial to remain a patrol officer because you get more paid overtime …,” he said. “I think it’s clearly a money issue.”
Glen Cove, which does not depend on the county for a constant police presence, has not had a problem maintaining its staff of detectives. In fact, Nagle said, the city has only lost one detective recently, to retirement, leaving the force with five detectives for the time being. He said he believed the department would find a replacement soon.