BY ADAM ZAKI
A virtual meeting between Suffolk County legislators and the police commissioner grew tense on Thursday as the top cop and lawmakers squabbled over what was portrayed a multi million dollar discrepancy in budget cuts, and exactly where the cuts would be implemented.
“There will be no layoffs” insisted Commissioner Geraldine Hart, when asked by legislator Steven Flotteron if the department planned to let go police officers.
Hart said that the cuts would come from halting police academy, freezing hiring at 200 officers, eliminating some helicopter training, and cutting both the use of contract agencies and public safety revenue sharing.
When she was asked how the county would save the needed $13 million with such minimal measures Hart grew flustered and referred to a female aide in the background. The aide, Suffolk County financial analyst Donna Miles, seemed hesitant.
“I can’t really give you an answer on that right now without going through the budget.” said Miles.
“It is something I would need to know,” said Flotteron. “I want to make sure you have an accurate budget, the proper tools you need, and that’s a dramatic difference. It is not a couple of thousand dollars.”
Legislator William Spencer also went after Hart for the reduction of revenue sharing, funds in which smaller police departments in the more secluded parts of Long Island rely on to function. Asaroken, Lloyd Harbor, and Huntington Bay fit such a category, according to Spencer.
“I do have a hard time supporting a hard 50% cut” said Spencer. “They are not getting their fair share to begin with.”
These self policing communities are responsible for their respective areas, and receive funding from the SCPD while operating primarily independently of them. According to Spencer, areas like the ones he mentioned will be significantly set back if the cuts occur.
Hart blamed the cuts to these smaller departments on the lack of federal funding. “Hope is not a strategy” she said, when referring to the positive attitude that the federal money will come. “We need to make the decisions we are going to make in order to make sure we are operating within the confines of the budget restriction.”
Hart and the SCPD plan to decimate small local departments by withholding their funding to save roughly $13 million in a budget of more than half a billion dollars. This savings is being organized and implemented by an office that upon request by local representatives, couldn’t answer exactly how they came up with the figure of $13 million in cuts.