As of yesterday, the deadline came and went for all of New York City’s police to be vaccinated or face “disciplinary measures” starting with being put on unpaid leave. While it’s true that vaccination rates did go up in the NYPD in the past couple of weeks, plenty of officers remain unvaccinated and many are awaiting the results of their applications for exemptions. But the cops with no other alternatives than the unemployment line may soon have a new opportunity in front of them. Out on the eastern end of Long Island in Suffolk County, the County Executive (Steve Bellone, a Democrat) is bucking his party and national blue state trends by announcing that he will be hiring more than 700 new police officers. And to sweeten the deal a bit he’s letting all potential applicants know that being vaccinated is optional. Police unions in the city are already taking notice and it won’t be surprising if at least some of the thousands of disgruntled, unvaccinated NYPD officers start calling real estate agents on Long Island this week. (NY Post)
Suffolk County is set to dramatically boost its police ranks — including by potentially siphoning off cops from the NYPD who are furious over the Big Apple’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone will announce Monday that he is hiring 705 law-enforcement personnel, bucking the “defund the police’ movement in his own party, sources said.
“This is the largest one-year increase in law-enforcement personnel in Suffolk County history,’’ said Bellone, who is eyeing a run for governor, to The Post on Sunday. “We have opposed the slogan, “Defund the Police.’ ”
700 sounds like a very large number of cops to hire on short notice, but Suffolk County isn’t some small, rural area. The county’s population is in excess of 1.4 million and the police department has more than 2,500 sworn officers. Assuming he can find the money in the county budget, Bellone could probably make room for that many new police.
It’s easy to suspect that there’s at least some element of politics involved in this announcement. Bellone has already announced that he’s exploring a possible run for Governor of New York next year and he would be entering a very crowded field of Democratic candidates that includes some big names with national name recognition. And those candidates are already facing the challenge of taking on Kathy Hochul, who has the benefit of incumbency going for her. Staking out a position as the “law and order candidate” early in the game is probably a smart move on Bellone’s part. It’s a strategy that certainly worked well for Eric Adams in his bid to be the next Mayor of Gotham.
Bellone has more legitimate reasons to do this than political convenience, however. When it comes to crime, Suffolk County doesn’t have it nearly as bad as some of the gnarlier parts of New York City, such as Brownsville. But they haven’t been immune to the rising crime rates seen over the past two years either. After five straight years of declining crime rates from 2015 through 2019, the county has experienced a steep increase in both homicides and carjackings over the past two years. Rather than blathering on about defunding or abolishing the police, Bellone has rejected those ideas and is now moving in the other direction in high gear.
Just as we’ve seen in other areas dealing with shrinking police forces, this strategy could pay off. It would take a very long time to identify and recruit 700 potential rookies and get them vetted and through the police academy. It would also not be cheap. But if Bellone can tempt that many fully-trained NYPD cops facing expulsion because of their vaccination status to make the move out to Long Island, they would be ready to go on day one. And he would probably receive a lot more loyalty from those police officers than Bill de Blasio tends to get. That would likely go a long way toward making the residents of the county feel more secure and in touch with local law enforcement.
It looks like the ball is back in Bill de Blasio’s court. He can either back off on the vaccination mandate and return to the negotiating table with the police unions or watch a big chunk of his city’s security detail pack their bags and escape from New York.