Nassau County and the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association agreed to a tentative 8-1/2- year contract last week, according to a Newsday report.
The contract, officials told Newsday, would run retroactively from Jan. 1, 2018 until July 1, 2026 and increase the top base pay for officers from $122,000 to $141,000. The starting pay for new officers would also be increased from $35,000 to $37,333, according to the report. Officials did not disclose what the overall cost of the contract would be, but told Newsday that the tentative agreement “follows a template similar” to other contracts between the county and various unions.
The proposed contract would need to be ratified by the association before being sent to the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state board in charge of overseeing the county’s finances, and then the Nassau County Legislature.
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman described the negotiations between the two parties as “exhaustive,” but expressed his pleasure with the agreement.
“I believe this agreement keeps our police department at the highest levels of salary in the nation but at the same time has provisions that enhance the safety of our communities and guards the taxpayers money,” Blakeman said in a statement.
The county failed to come to an agreement with the 1,800-member union during the tenure of Democratic County Executive Laura Curran. Contract proposals of the same length were submitted and provided officers with a 25 percent raise over the eight-and-a-half years.
Annual stipends of $3,000 for officers wearing body cameras was agreed on by the county and the union, which officials said costs taxpayers $8 million each year. The county selected Ronkonkoma-based Island Tech Services to provide the camera technology and handle training and technical support for the officers.
Body cameras were one of several measures included in a 424-page plan to reform Nassau County’s policing that Curran released in February 2021.
The plan, which the county Legislature approved 16-3 in March, was submitted in accordance with an executive order that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed in June 2020 requiring police agencies to devise plans to “reinvent and modernize police strategies” after Minneapolis cops killed George Floyd.
Nassau County spends $1,148 per capita on police and fire protection while the national median is $359, according to U.S. News & World Report finding that named Nassau County the safest community in America in 2020 and 2021. Public safety professionals account for 1.26% of the county’s population, compared with the national median of 0.70%.
Despite the recognition and reported pay raises, the county is on pace to report nearly 7,400 major crimes this year, a 38% increase from 2021, according to an analysis of statistics conducted by Blank Slate Media.
The county’s police department reported 5,230 major crimes as of Oct. 10 this year, which surpassed last year’s total of 4,015. The list of major crimes includes murder, rape, criminal sexual acts, sexual abuse, grand larceny, commercial robberies, other robberies, assault felonies, residential burglaries, other burglaries and stolen vehicles.
The 2021 year-end major crime statistics were obtained by Blank Slate Media under a Freedom of Information Law request submitted to the Nassau County Police Department. The 2022 major crime statistics on the department websites were the most up-to-date figures published as of Friday.
Nassau has reported six murders, nine sexual abuse incidents, two criminal sexual acts and seven rapes so far this year. By comparison a total of 10 murders, 11 sexual abuse attacks, 10 criminal sexual acts and 19 rapes were reported in 2021, according to the statistics.
The violent crime categories of murders, rapes, criminal sexual acts and sexual abuse were the only four categories with decreased reports in 2022. Murders decreased by 14%, rape decreased by 59%, criminal sexual acts decreased by 75% and sexual abuse instances decreased by 18%.
The largest increase in major crimes was an 87% rise in stolen vehicles, with 796 reported so far this year. Commercial robberies also increased by more than 51% this year, with 165 reported as of Oct. 10. Police reported 3,354 grand larceny incidents in 2022, a 38% increase from 2021.
Residential and “other burglaries” combined to surpass 2021’s year-end total of 506 at 643 for 2022.
Blakeman, who has been outspoken in his displeasure with the state’s reformed bail laws since he launched his campaign for county executive last year, said there is a “state of lawlessness” throughout New York and it has resulted in repeat offenders coming back to Nassau County to commit crimes.
“We have to get serious about changing the laws so that we don’t give criminals more rights than victims,” Blakeman said. “Unfortunately, that’s the way it is now. We’ve got people committing crime after crime and judges are not given the discretion whether or not to hold these people and I think it’s a huge mistake.”
New York implemented bail reform laws in January 2020, with modifications passed in April of that year and the spring of 2022. The laws eliminated bail for misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges.
State officials said the modified laws eliminated pretrial detention and optional cash bail in an estimated 90 percent of cases.
While judges throughout New York have the option to set bail in almost any case involving a violent felony, they may also release individuals in almost all other cases on their own recognizance or enact certain terms to make sure they ultimately return to court.
What judges cannot do, under the new bail reform laws, is to consider an individual’s “dangerousness” when setting those terms.