Union: Detective shortage could hurt fight against gangs, drugs

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WOODBURY -

The Nassau Detectives Association says a shortage of detectives in the county could hurt their fight against gangs and drugs.

It's being called an "ongoing public safety crisis." John Wighaus, president of the Nassau detectives union, says they're "severely undermanned."

The current Nassau budget allows for 360 detectives, but there are currently only 317. For example, the Narcotics Unit has 27 detectives, and the gang squad has seven detectives for more than 300 cases last year.

Wighaus says there's a lack of financial incentive for a job that comes with a much larger workload.

Right now, if a police officer becomes a detective, it's a $2,400 pay increase. That was negotiated in 2006 as part of a collective arbitration agreement.

Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder acknowledges his detective division is understaffed and says he is concerned, but he understands the situation.

"Who wants to take a job where you pay me the same, and I do more work and I have more responsibility?" he asks.

But Ryder says despite the detective shortage, crime is still down in Nassau. He does dispute calling it a "public safety crisis."

Contract negotiations between the union and the county are expected to begin in the next month or so.

A spokeswoman for Nassau County Executive Laura Curran issued a statement saying:

While the department actively seeks to recruit members to designate as detectives, contractual terms negotiated by the previous administration still prove to be a challenge. Remedying that is a main focus of the Curran Administration's collective bargaining process. The County Executive is proud of Nassau County's outstanding detectives and recognizes their skills and expertise are crucial to keeping our major crime statistics at historic lows.

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