Shortfall in Nassau County police detectives

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Working without a new contract for nearly two years the Nassau County Detectives Association is pushing for a new agreement along with the organization’s continuing campaign for the county to resolve the short staffing of detectives at eight police department precincts.

Association President John Wighaus, a detective since 1997, said the overarching issues are the payment structure, which includes “steps” for detectives to reach top detective pay coupled with the overwhelmingly responsibilities that includes handling several cases simultaneously, interviewing victims, interrogating suspects, answering to multiple levels of prosecutors — along with investigating, collecting, categorizing and maintaining statistics, and arresting suspects.

Officers do receive a $2,400 raise after being promoted to detective, but they must complete all eight, 12-month steps to earn detective pay. Then detectives must complete 75 months, just over six years, of steps to earn top detective pay. This all stems from a 2007 arbitration award that lasted for five years and was extended in 2015 and 2017.

The police department is budgeted for 360 detectives, but there are 308 currently on duty. Wighaus said that with the reopening of the Sixth Precinct on the North Shore and the Eighth on the eastern end of the county, the detectives are stretched even more as Third Squad detectives are handling 6th precinct cases and Second Squad detectives are working 8th Precinct cases.

The Sixth Precinct, which serves Glen Head, Glenwood Landing, Greenvale, the Roslyns and Sea Cliff, reopened in April. It was closed along with the Eight Precinct in 2012 under a consolidation plan aimed at saving money. They were converted into community policing centers that lacked the full staff of officers and upper-level police supervisors common of a precinct. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced at a news conference that the Sixth Precinct building, located on Community Drive in Manhasset, would be renovated.

Wighaus said there were 460 detectives 20 years ago, and a decade ago 425. “Getting the detective shield was the pinnacle of police work; now it’s gone to be a pariah to most officers,” he said, adding that when he put in for detective every precinct typically had 20 to 30 officers doing the same.

He addressed the County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee on June 4, and claims there is 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.

County spokeswoman Christine Geed said that when the Sixth and Eight precincts were reopened “we would not be able to field detective units until we completed bargaining.” 

“The county and Detectives Association are working towards a positive solution for this detective shortage,” she said. “Unfortunately, this shortage is a result of a prior contract that was negotiated by the previous administration, which leaves police officers with better salaries than detectives. As a result, detective promotions have been declined.” Geed added that Nassau “is experiencing historic low crime rates.”   

Alyssa Seidman contributed to this story.