Court officers say staffing cuts, building conditions put them at risk

Court officers in Nassau say staffing cuts and poor building conditions are adding more risks to an already dangerous job.

Nassau Court Officers Benevolent Association President Billy Imandt says there aren't enough court officers on the job. He blames the state for a lack of funding, which he says has left their force down 22 percent from what it was five years ago.

Compounding officers' troubles, Imandt says the court's county-owned buildings are in deplorable condition.

Court officer Frank Bell showed News 12 some of the signs of disrepair at district court in Hempstead: an elevator bolted shut, another that gets stuck, holes in the ceiling, missing tiles, exit signs that don't light up, expired fire extinguishers, stairwells and hallways cluttered with old furniture, and supposedly secure doors that don't even have locks.

The union says the worst of all the buildings is family court in Westbury, where there are narrow hallways, overcrowding and ceilings that leak so badly that a support magistrate was once forced to use an umbrella indoors.

In response to the state of the buildings, a spokesman for Republican County Executive Ed Mangano sought to blame Democrats, saying, "Democrat Legislators have held the county's capital plan hostage and therefore no funds are available to make these critical repairs."

But Imandt says it's time for officials to stop passing the buck and put public safety first. "There's such little money being funded into this," he says. "We're spread way too thin and we can't cover protecting the people that come to these buildings, and that's our job."

In response to staffing levels, a spokesman for the state court system said they're in the process of recovering from five years of numerous retirements He said there is also a new class of court officers graduating this summer, and eight have been assigned to Nassau courts.

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