Nassau County’s recent budget problems have affected all of its operations, including its police department, which has, in turn, had an impact on operations at the Lynbrook Police Department as well as in Lynbrook schools.
All Nassau residents pay a county “police headquarters tax,” even if they live in a village with its own police department. The tax covers county detective work, training, aviation and marine units as well as other services the county police provide. Cutbacks have reduced the availability of these services, leaving village police departments to pick up the slack at villagers’ expense.
Brian Paladino, the Lynbrook P.D.’s training sergeant, said that the biggest impact of the cuts can be seen in the county Police Department’s special services and officer training. He explained that the county helps with the Lynbrook department’s felony and juvenile caseload as well as special-victims cases, and aids the Village’s Crimes Against Property Squad as well.
“What the cuts have done have really handcuffed those specialized units, and made those services very general and very tough to get,” Paladino said. “Where we’ve seen our biggest problems are the specialized units that we’ve paid for with our county taxes. The bill has remained the same, but the services are not as great anymore. It’s a lack of people, more or less. When those bodies aren’t there, and the needs arise, it’s not there like it used to be.”
Emergency services such as helicopters — which the county is supposed to provide — are not as quick to respond as they once were, Paladino said, adding that New York City Police Department helicopters could be the village’s first call in an emergency because they would be more likely get to the scene first.
Special services offered by the county often have little effect on crime trends in Lynbrook, Paladino said. “When we get an epidemic of something or a crime pattern,” he said, “it gets that much harder to [reduce] it because of the lack of resources” — meaning not just money, but experienced crime solvers.
Police officers must regularly take training classes to remain up to date on the latest methods and techniques — from firearms recertification to dealing with a wide range of situations to familiarization with new headquarters procedures and systems. Budget cuts, Paladino said, have made the LPD more proactive in training its officers internally, and it does so three days a week. He said that although he has received quality training from Nassau County during his career, county resources are stretched so thin that it is more convenient to handle some training in-house.
“We were not getting adequate training, and we’ve internalized it,” he said. “There’s a bit of a cost factor added on to our department budget to cover that, but it’s pennies [compared with] what would happen if we didn’t do the training and got sued.”
School-police liaisons affected
The NCPD’s budget cuts have also affected Lynbrook schools, specifically South Middle School and Waverly Park and Marion Street elementary schools. The 4th Precinct provided police liaisons to these buildings as part of the Problem-Oriented Policing program, but those officers have been reassigned to patrol duty until next year.
Superintendent of Schools Melissa Burak announced at the June 11 Board of Education meeting that the liaisons would be removed from the schools. Those officers attended the schools’ health and safety meetings and worked with administrators to review and practice lockdown and lockout drills.
“The ability to have a point person as a contact should something arise in our schools is extremely valuable,” Burak told the Herald. “When dealing with difficult situations, we always want to make sure we abide by lawful measures, while still providing security for all under our care.”
Burak said she reached out to County Executive Ed Mangano and County Legislator Francis Becker, voicing her concern about safety at the schools, and that Becker told her that the situation was only temporary.