Commissioner candidates open to talks with Manorhaven

Luke Torrance
Port Washington Police Department Headquarters on Port Washington Blvd. (Photo courtesy of Port Washington Police)

On Dec. 5, Tom Rice will try to replace James Duncan as one of the commissioners for the Port Washington Police Department.

The election has implications for residents inside the department’s coverage zone as well as one village outside of it: Manorhaven, which is considering joining the department.

I’m in favor of Manorhaven [joining the police district], but it can’t affect the people up here in the peninsula,” Duncan said. “We’ve protect the people who have been paying taxes and supporting the department all these years.”

The Village of Manorhaven would be moving to the Port police from the Nassau County police.

Duncan said he has discussed the move for almost a decade, but past mayors were too demanding. He said that talks with current Mayor Jim Avena have been better and a deal would work if the village committed to a 10-year plan.

Rice said he was also open to Manorhaven joining the Port Washington Police as long as they were committed to the move.

“There would have to be a promise,” he said. “We would have to hire new police officers, and I would not want to set up a new officer for failure by [Manorhaven] pulling out and having to let guys go.”

Currently, Manorhaven is not part of the department’s coverage area and thus their residents will not be voting in the election.

For those who will, Duncan said that his record stands for itself.

He has served as commissioner since 1997, the longest tenured of the department’s three commissioners. Previously, he was an officer with the Nassau County Police for 23 years and received a Purple Heart during his service in Vietnam.

“I’m proud of my 21 years of service, and my record stands,” he said. “When I first got here, we were millions in debt because of massive lawsuits. Since that time, we’ve been able to improve, and we’re just about debt free and we have no pending lawsuits.”

Commissioners are up for election every three years. Rice said Duncan had failed to follow through on his campaign promises.

“Every time my opponent is up for election, he says he’ll do it but he’s never done anything about it,” he said, referring specifically to update the department’s headquarters.

Rice was defeated by Duncan in 2011, when Rice was a write-in candidate. Rice said he got into that race at the last second and said this election would be different.

“I’m really into it this time, I’m really focused on it and I’m the right man for the job,” he said.

Rice was born and raised in Port Washington, where he attended Paul D. Schreiber High School and currently raises his family. He previously served with the New York Police Department, during which he responded to the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 and assisted with the cleanup. He retired from the NYPD in 2003.

When asked what he would change, Rice said he would prioritize building connections with students in Port Washington.

It could be a stronger bond with multiple officers and students in middle school and high school,” he said. “I would like them to be able to form a bond to discuss opioids, other problems in the school and know that it’s safe to discuss the issues with them.”

Since Duncan won re-election in 2014, he said that his biggest accomplishment in the interim was diversifying the police force.

“I’d probably our hiring practices that are now in the 21st century,” he said. “We have diversity among the officers, we have minorities and different ethnic groups.”

Voting will take place on the 5th from noon to 9 p.m. at the Polish American Citizens Association, located at 5 Pulaski Place in Port Washington.

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