Police facility biggest question at commissioner forum

Police facility biggest question at commissioner forum
Incumbent Police Commissioner Dave Franklin (left) and challenger Frank T. Scobbo (right) speak at a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters. (Photo by Rose Weldon)

The Port Washington Police District’s headquarters was on the mind of residents at a forum for the district’s police commissioner candidates held Dec. 3.

Incumbent Dave Franklin, who has served three terms since his first election in 2011, and challenger Frank T. Scobbo, whose father Frank J. Scobbo was the district’s longest-serving commissioner, fielded questions from voters at the Port Washington Public Library, where they were hosted by the League of Women Voters of Port Washington-Manhasset.

Nancy Coles of Port Washington East asked the first question, which brought the building to the forefront.

“Six or seven years ago, the commissioners formed a committee of citizens to help the commissioners to work out some research and make recommendations on the building,” Coles said. “At the time, their report pointed out many deficiencies regarding different kinds of things. There are other people using the building besides staff. There are children, seniors, victims, suspected predators, members of the public who come for a variety of reasons. My question is, what would you do this time to involve the public, make the process more transparent?”

Scobbo, himself the chief operating officer of a specialty construction company, spoke in favor of improving the current infrastructure.

“There is no current long-range plan or intermediate plan right now, and [the Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau] did walk through the building and they did give it a passing grade,” Scobbo said. “There are, obviously some things that need to be addressed, but looking towards the future, that’s one of the things I’ve mentioned, is improving the district’s infrastructure and including the community.”

Franklin took issue with Scobbo’s answer, saying that according to records he had found, PESH, which conducts unannounced inspections on government entities, has not made an inspection of the area since 2011.

“They don’t do annual tours if they’re called, they’ll come in,” Franklin said.

Franklin went on to say that the 60-year-old building was unsafe in its current state.

“We have civilian employees that have to walk past a detention and holding area in order to use lockers,” Franklin said. “We don’t have sufficient bathrooms, the ladies’ bathroom had to be demolished so we could extend an office. It was designed for 30 people, we now have 65 officers alone. We’ve outgrown the facility.”

The commissioner cited aging gas lines, wiring problems, a broken sewer main and a lack of fire sprinklers in the building’s basement.

“If there’s a fire in the basement, sadly, we’ll probably lose five detectives, because there’s no way to get out,” Franklin said. “Rather than keep putting band-aids on something, we need to start from scratch.”

In addition to the facility, voters asked the candidates’ views on other issues.

Port resident Ron Kaslow pointed out that Scobbo’s brother is a sergeant in the district, and that if his brother were brought up for a promotion or if he joined with the Police Benevolent Association’s contract negotiations, it would present a conflict of interest. Kaslow asked if he would then be able to vote on anything substantial with the two other commissioners.

“I would recuse myself from anything involving my brother,” Scobbo replied. “And he hasn’t been on the PBA contract negotiations for, I believe, five or six years, he was asked recently to get involved and he decided not to.”

Franklin countered by saying that Scobbo’s brother had “been at the table” for the most recent negotiations.

Mindy Germain, executive director of the advocacy group Residents Forward of Port Washington, asked the candidates for their stance on the Red Flag law, which became effective in August, which prevents individuals who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing any kind of firearms.

Both candidates supported the measure, with Franklin mentioning that he would want to “go further” with its implementation in schools.

Several other residents, including Jackie DelliBovi, asked if commissioners’ meeting agendas and minutes could be available online, a measure that both candidates said they were open to implementing.

Resident Ron Rochester also suggested streaming the meetings online, which both candidates said would depend on the cost of proper equipment to stream.

The election for police commissioner will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 10, from 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Polish American Hall, located at 5 Pulaski Place in Port Washington.

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