On June 4th, the Nassau County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee held a hearing to address concerns about the shortage of detectives in the Nassau County Police Department, and the possible effect on the community. Speakers included: John Wighaus, the President of the Nassau County Detectives Association; James McDermott, President of the Nassau County PBA; Kevin Black, president of the Superior Officers Association; and Patrick Ryder, Commissioner of Police for Nassau County.
The hearing opened with President Wighaus addressing the Legislature about his members’ concerns. He breached the topic of staffing numbers for the detectives, and mentioned that there is a shortage of police officers who want to be promoted to the rank of detective. He reiterated that becoming a detective was once the pinnacle of a police officer’s career, but now, most officers choose to decline that promotion in favor of remaining an officer. Many feel that the promotion is not worth it. There is more responsibility, more hours and more stress, but no financial incentive. Some that are detectives, and police officers designated detective, have requested to be demoted back to officer and have given up their detective shield. He says that on average, only four or five police officers in a department of more than 2,300, have expressed any desire to rise to the once prestigous rank. This is down from a time when 250 officers submitted official requests.
Wighaus discussed the current detective staffing numbers, mentioning that there are currently 309 detectives, despite the fact that they are allotted for 360. He expressed concern that due to planned retirements later this year, the number of detectives might fall below 300. He reported that there are only 28 detectives assigned to the combined Narcotics and Vice Squad, despite the current heroin and opioid epidemic. This is a change from when there were two separate squads for narcotics and vice, and narcotics had 70 detectives for themselves.
Wighaus explained the depleted numbers in the amount of crime scene detectives, fraud and forgery squad, missing persons’ squad and the specialty squads. As of last year, there were only nine detectives in the gang squad.
The major crime issues that face the County, including the opioid crisis and attacks by violent gangs like MS-13 are investigated by the detective squad, and the quality of life of Nassau County residents is dependent upon detectives being able to do their job, and staffing numbers being at adequate levels.
The DAI and members of the County Executive’s office have only had two meetings to discuss the contract in the almost 18 months since she took office.
“Today, I held a hearing on the shortage of Nassau County Detectives on our police force,” Alternate Deputy Presiding Officer and Chairperson of the Public Safety Committee Denise Ford said. “The department is currently 51 detectives short of their budgeted amount. County Executive Curran needs to work with the Detectives to fill the vacancies immediately. Nassau is in the midst of trying to fight a heroin and opioid abuse epidemic, protect its residents from violent MS-13 attacks and prevent seniors from being taken advantage of by online scams amongst other things. Something has to be done. We need more Detectives on our streets; not less.”
“Because of the work of our great police department, including the detective division, Nassau County has historically low crime numbers, but that can change quickly with inadequate staffing” Legislator Steven Rhoades said. “The fact that we can’t maintain our detective staffing numbers, and that there is a lack of incentive to become a detective is troubling. As legislators, we need to do everything we can to reverse this problem, and I am willing to take whatever steps are necessary to keep Nassau residents safe and maintain our quality of life.”
“Today’s testimony brought to light problems with staffing that need to be remedied,” Legislator Kennedy said. “Just last week the police found a body brutally murdered by MS-13. I urge the County administration to increase the number of detectives allocated for the Police Department, and I urge the County Executive to give Commissioner Ryder any tools he needs to help bring our detective staffing numbers higher and continue to ensure the safety of our county.”