Last week’s ouster of the Nassau County police commissioner amid revelations of a politically motivated arrest during election season is proof that top cops shouldn’t have final say in disciplining members of the department, Nassau police’s union boss said.
James Carver, president of the Nassau Police Benevolent Association, said during a press conference Tuesday that the union will appeal a Nassau County Supreme Court judge’s decision earlier this month upholding the a new law that allows a police commissioner to take action against a member of the department without a hearing in front of an independent arbitrator.
Carver argued that commissioner Thomas Dale’s resignation after a Nassau District Attorney probe into the arrest of a Roosevelt man at the request of a Nassau County Executive race hopeful’s top campaign donor is “precisely why we need binding arbitration.”
“What this police department doesn’t need,” he said, “is outside influence determining which officers get discipline and which officers don’t get discipline.”
Carver also took issue with what he said was the county reneging on a contractual agreement in 2007 stipulating that the police department cannot discipline an officer for 10 days or more absent binding arbitration.
The commissioner gained sole power over such penalties when the Nassau County Legislature amended that law in 2012.
“They entered into a contractual agreement with us, and that’s what we’re asking for,” Carver said.
When Dale officially took over as police commissioner in January 2012, he was charged with turning around a department beset by high-profile indiscretions and abuses.
Carver noted that the PBA isn’t challenging the commissioner’s right to hand down punishment, but he wants officers to get a fair shake.
Kevin Tobin, second vice president of the Nassau PBA, also criticized the judge’s decision, saying: “Once you give one individual the unfettered right to terminate people, that becomes problematic especially in the public sector.”
“For the commissioner to lead the department and have respect for the application of the rules and regulations, it is essential that he or she have the ability to discipline those who violate those very rules and regulations,” Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Carver said he hopes Mangano taps a candidate within the department to be the next police commissioner. Dale was previously a member of the NYPD.
“When you have somebody from the outside coming in here what influence does he bring?” he said. “And we had those questions when commissioner Dale was hired and we still have those questions today.”
“I think you should trust the people inside this department to do their job,” he added.
Mangano has said his next police commissioner would be selected from outside the county.
The county said the “search process is ongoing” and they expect to pick a new commissioner “in the coming months.”