To the Editor:
Just for the record, all should know that I did reach out to Supervisor Phillips to speak directly on the matter of law enforcement deployment within the Town of Haverstraw, as there was no intent to disparage anybody when I spoke of this issue. Howie knows that anyone from working family in Brooklyn, who is a former cop, union member, and driving a ten year old Chevy Cavalier to boot, simply could not harbor an elitist attitude!
All of us in government know what the driving issue behind all this is; the towns gaining a fairer share of sales tax collection. And the reason why it is the flashpoint; the county executive and town supervisors not having a meeting of the minds after supposedly that was so. I have been told that agreements were broken; town budgets already prepared were compromised; and a degree of animus now prevails.
However, to have law enforcement become the poker chip in this disagreement is troubling to all of us, and even more so for me as the only member of the law enforcement community serving on the county legislature. And while I sympathize with his frustrations regarding “the holes in his roads and in the county budget”, for most in the community know that I, as a minority legislator, have been one of the most prominent voices in county government trying to stop financial missteps over the past few years.
Yes, as a NYC cop who patrolled some of the toughest streets in the city, I am painfully aware that the good people of the Village of Haverstraw are the true victims of crime and that activity is heavily influenced by external forces. The professional response is clear – deploy appropriate police resources and strategies consistent with the situation. To accomplish that, nearly 50 percent of the enforcement activity is focused to that need, and that is done correctly regardless of the fact that the Town of Haverstraw is geographically 1/5th – or 20 percent – of the county.
As a law enforcement professional and Clarkstown taxpayer, I am unequivocally supportive of that because crime knows no borders. This makes sense because from a public safety perspective it is in all of our best interests to chase down these criminals regardless of where they hide.
What I do not wish to see is for the professional and effective mission of protecting the people of this County become subjugated to matters and disputes about other areas of funding, when, in fact, each and every county, town and village police officer serving in Rockland County is already hired, paid, and funded by respective local taxes that we all pay. In essence, “reimbursements” are double taxation for the same service.
Once that reality is accepted, the true issues are then crystallized – How and where do we deploy these officers? Do we want to utilize a task force approach? Can we select and share personnel with innate understanding of specific areas and crime trends?
I am sure that Supervisor Phillips is keenly aware that in order to maintain the same margin of enforcement and public safety for the residents and businesses, pulling his officers out of the Narcotics Task Force and Intelligence Center will only serve to compel the direct hiring by the Town of Haverstraw of more officers, along with the attendant increase in taxes.
What I would suggest is that everyone takes a step back and instead tries to focus on the task at hand – ensuring that our citizens are safe, as that is the first priority of any government. We cannot let the matter denigrate to a point where “whose budget is paying for a service” is the primary factor in governance. Let none of us forget that each and every dollar comes from our taxpayers in one way or another, and we are simply talking about which pocket it’s coming out of.
We cannot allow a situation where a cop sees a “billing as more important than backup”. Are we going to bill out Arson, Bomb and Explosive, or BCI unit responses; Town departments lending assistance to another town or county officer; responses by the Rockland County REACT team as done the other day in Orangetown?
The first step has already been taken. The Town of Ramapo has refused to pull their officers from these units. Not surprisingly, the driving force of my credo of a “public safety before politics” approach is none other than a fellow law enforcement professional, Councilman Pat Withers, who offered “it would be shortsighted for any town or village to withdraw from the Drug Task Force of Intelligence Unit.
I agree, and hope others will to. I believe that there will come a time that a broader agreement on matters such as the sharing of sales tax revenues can be achieved. But let’s work together here; meet each other half way; give a little; and work towards that goal without placing the public safety of our citizens at risk during that debate.
Edwin J “Ed” Day
The writer, a Rockland County legislator representing New City and Pomona, is also a twenty five year veteran of law enforcement, having served as a Detective Commander in the N.Y.C Police Department and Chief of Detectives in the Baltimore Police Department