Exclusive: Nassau County police department experiencing detective shortage

MINEOLA, Nassau County (WABC) -- Eyewitness News has learned exclusively of a detective shortage within the Nassau County Police Department.

The division is 45 detectives short of the number budgeted for by Nassau County, according to John Wighaus, president of the Nassau County Detectives' Association.

"Our detectives over the past several years have done more with less," Wighaus said. "Their cases, their workloads is off the charts."

Wighaus wrote a letter August 30 to dozens of local officials and federal authorities, including President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, that details the effect the shortage is having on the department's ability to combat MS-13.

"The gang crisis is only getting worse and will continue to worsen until the Detective Division is staffed appropriately to protect the residents of Nassau County and vanquish these violent gangs and their heinous acts," the letter reads.

Wighaus said the department's Gang Investigation Squad only has nine detectives. Three have retired since May, and another is set to retire within the next few weeks.

The division should have between 20 and 25 detectives, Wighaus said, adding that he and others met with Congressman Peter King Wednesday to discuss the shortage. King has been outspoken about combating MS-13 on Long Island and seeking federal resources to do so.

Wighaus said the detective shortage throughout the department is being caused by a combination of retirements and promotions and a lack of police officers applying to the detective position.

A first-year detective makes only $2,400 more than a police officer, despite taking on a significant workload increase. Wighaus says the low raise stems from a contract arbitration agreement made in 2006 between the Detectives' Association and Nassau County.

"Becoming a detective, there's great responsibility," Wighaus said. "Your day does not end when you go home."

Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said the department realizes it needs more detectives.

"We have a problem recruiting from the rank and file to become detectives because of a pay scale issue, which we're working now with the new county executive trying to make the changes going forward for our detectives," he said.

Wighaus sent a similar letter in May to the same recipients, to which he said he got very little response. He is hoping County Executive Laura Curran will take up his offer to sit down and discuss possible solutions to the shortage.

"Now is the time that she has to act on this problem and sit down with us and resolve these issue that we have," he said. "If she doesn't act soon, it's going to get worse."

Karen Contino, a spokesperson for Nassau County, said in a statement to Eyewitness News:

"The county executive recognizes the importance of this issue and is fully supportive of bolstering the ranks of Nassau County's detectives. She will work with Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and Nassau's police unions to address the need for more detectives in the Nassau County Police Department."

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