BY MICHAEL RICONDA
NEW CITY – The report which once sat near the center of the controversy over Sheriff’s Department cuts in 2014 has re-emerged under the scrutiny of the County Legislature.
This time, however, the report’s author stood before the body to state his case, arguing his recommendations called for more rather than less officers and never explicitly called for layoffs.
Louis Anemone, a former NYPD chief and consultant who put together a report on spending at the County Sheriff’s Department, spoke to the Legislature on February 24 regarding the report. During the engagement, he stated he did not recommend the layoffs pursued by County Executive Ed Day.
“We all know I did not recommend that,” Anemone said. “I was not recommending anyone be fired in the report.”
Anemone argued instead that his 19-page report, which was commissioned for $10,000, called instead for a six man boost to the Sheriff’s Patrol Unit and a restructuring of the Department to emphasize patrols over police brass. A stronger focus on flatter command structures and “directed patrol” activities would, according to the report, allow more targeted police work and build a foundation for specialists while reducing administrative costs.
The decision by Day to cut 37 positions from the department in his draft budget was, according to Anemone, a product of later discussions with three anonymous civilian sources directed to the consultant by Day. Their input reportedly influenced Day’s decision to cut the Patrol Unit.
Legislators were highly critical of Anemone’s decision to withhold the names, arguing the broader report’s commissioning outside the Legislature’s purview and the use of anonymous sources remains troubling. Legislator Jay Hood commented that he had a “huge problem” with the sources because it signaled too much executive control over the report.
“That’s really not the way you do public business,” Hood said.
In response, Hood stated the Legislature will continue to pursue the names of the civilians in spite of Anemone’s reluctance to disclose his sources. According to him, efforts could go as far as legal action.
“We are going to pursue those names, even if we have to subpoena them going forward,” Hood warned.
Public Policy and Intergovernmental Relations Director Stephen Powers, who represented Day at the meeting, countered that Anemone’s report was never meant to explicitly favor cuts but only present them as a viable option. Hence, Powers argued the legislature had cherry-picked statements on a settled issue for political reasons. Anenome had stated during budget season that he thought Day’s plan, which included cuts, was commendable.
Powers emphasized that the decision to include the cuts was based on the fact 11 percent of county police are in the Patrol Division but only 0.5 percent of county arrests are made by the division, a discrepancy elucidated in the report’s figures. Powers added that he did not have information on who was specifically consulted as a source.
Anemone did not return calls for commentary on the report or its sources.
The 2015 draft budget raised eyebrows with its inclusion of cuts to not only the 37 positions but also a significant majority of funding to nonprofit contract agencies. In spite of several compromise bills proposed by Day’s allies in the Legislature, the body opted to push its own budget which restored funding to both the Sheriff’s Department and nonprofits.