Unions representing Nassau County police officers, detectives, correctional officers and superior officers have donated thousands of dollars to campaigns at the county level, a practice that the Long Island Association for Police Accountability (LIAPA) said is a conflict of interest.
In the last race for Nassau County executive in 2017, Republican candidate Jack Martins was given a $25,000 campaign contribution by the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association Political Action Committee. Martins also received three donations of $15,000 from political action committees of the Nassau County Detectives Association, the Nassau County Police Department Superior Officers Association and the Nassau County Correction Officers, according to data compiled by Newsday.
Data from the New York State Board of Elections shows that in 2017, the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association PAC gave a total of $5,200 in contributions to Laura Curran, the Democratic victor, during the 2017 county executive election cycle. The superior officers association gave $600 to her campaign and the county detectives association gave $1,000.
The LIAPA, a group formed last month to push for police reform in Nassau County, also provided data showing that police associations had donated to the campaigns of every county legislator over the last two campaign cycles.
Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) received $10,250 in campaign donations from police organizations over the last two cycles. Of the legislators currently in office, the most was given to Laura Schaefer (R-Farmingdale) who received $12,480 in that time period, according to LIAPA data.
In legislative races, the donations were not strictly partisan. Of the current Democrats in the Legislature, Kevan Abrahams, the minority leader from Freeport, received the most campaign contributions from police organizations over the last two cycles, collecting $9,000.
“I believe that elected officials can make decisions based on what they think is the right thing, no matter what donations they may or may not have received,” Curran told Blank Slate Media last week.
Curran’s predecessor, Edward Mangano, a Republican, received at least $5,325 in campaign donations from police organizations since 2009.
Tom Suozzi, the county executive from 2002 through 2009, received at least $25,000 in contributions from police organizations from 2007 to 2009 and at least $20,000 from the county correctional officers union in the same period.
He is now a U.S. congressman representing the 3rd District on the North Shore. Suozzi’s top donors to his congressional campaign in 2019-20 have come from the real estate industry, followed by insurance, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based nonprofit that tracks campaign contributions to U.S. representatives.
“I used to fight with the [police] unions all the time about contracts and things,” Suozzi said last week. “Some years I got donations and other years I didn’t get donations. They don’t endorse me now in Congress; they don’t give me contributions now. There’s an argument that any contribution you get from anybody could be a conflict of interest. I’ve been in public service for 25 years and nobody can give an example of where I didn’t do the right thing based upon money.”
Fred Brewington, an attorney and member of the LIAPA, said that police should not make campaign donations in county races since the county negotiates the police collective bargaining agreement with the county. According to data from See Through NY, Nassau County had the four highest-paid police officers in the state. The highest was Thomas Karp of the county police, who made $308,113 that year. That year, Nassau County police made up nine of the 10 highest-paid police officers in the state and those officers all made over $275,000.
“The police salaries that we see on Long Island are the results of decades of collective bargaining agreements,” Curran said.
Suozzi said he has a “long record of fighting” the large salaries that police in the county make and that he has “paid the price” for it politically.
Suozzi said he is supportive of police in general and always has been and “got into a lot of fights” about contract negotiations as county executive. He stressed that there needs to be more nuance in discussions about police and that the two sides of the debates over police reform need to search for common ground.
Suozzi made these remarks at an event to honor several police officers from his district who had “displayed exemplary heroism in the line of duty in service to our communities,” a news release said.