Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced a Task Force and community process in response to Governor Cuomo’s NYS Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative. Working with the County Executive’s office, the newly created Task Force will solicit input from individuals and organizations across the county, contributing to the development of a plan that will first be presented to the Suffolk County Legislature and then to New York State by April 1st, 2021 pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order.
The Task Force will conduct a series of eight virtual public outreach meetings, in addition to one-on-one stakeholder meetings to establish a direct line of communication between the Task Force and the community throughout the process. The Task Force will examine current policies and procedures and receive input from the community and key stakeholder groups, providing the essential foundation necessary to develop a comprehensive policing plan for Suffolk County to present to New York State.
“Over the last few years we have made real progress in diversifying our police force and building community trust by embracing and instituting a number of reforms, but we know our work isn’t done,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “The development of the comprehensive policing plan, with direct input from the community, will help us build upon the progress we have made and implement strategies that will improve policing. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to create positive change that will enhance community policing and strengthen the relationship between all of our diverse communities and those who patrol our communities.”
Presiding Officer Rob Calarco said: “I thank the County Executive for convening this comprehensive group of stakeholders for a collaborative discussion that will shape the future of policing in Suffolk County, and look forward to the opportunity to be a part of the task force. It is important that in doing this work, we hear from a large contingent of voices and bring to the table community members from across the spectrum. This is a tremendous opportunity to consider our policies with fresh, open eyes, and to engage in honest, fact-driven dialogue. My colleagues and I look forward to working with this task force to ensure we are providing policing in a manner that is fair and just for all, with buy-in from the communities we serve and mindful of the difficulties facing police officers.”
The community outreach meetings will be organized around the seven precincts in the Suffolk County Police District. The eighth meeting will focus on the East End where the Suffolk County Police Department works closely with Town and Village Police Departments. The jurisdiction of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s office extends throughout the County.
The County is committed to ensuring that every voice that wants to contribute to this process can be heard. Individuals without access to a reliable internet connection or those with language access needs should call Suffolk 3-1-1. In addition to the public outreach meetings, residents will also be able to submit written comment as part of the process to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Task Force will also conduct direct meetings with key stakeholder groups. Pastor Keith Hayward leads one such organization, the Ministerial Alliance of North Amityville.
Pastor Keith Hayward, The Ministerial Alliance of North Amityville said: “The Ministerial Alliance of North Amityville is pleased that County Executive Bellone has named the Police Reform Task Force members and the framework for seeking public input in the process. We look forward to engaging with the Task Force as one of many stakeholder groups who seek to ensure justice, reform and protection for all of our communities.”
Members of the Task Force include:
- Vanessa Baird-Streeter, Deputy County Executive
- Jon Kaiman, Deputy County Executive
- Retha Fernandez, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer
- Geri Hart, Suffolk County Police Department Commissioner
- Risco Mention-Lewis, Suffolk County Police Department Deputy Commissioner
- Stu Cameron, Suffolk County Police Department Chief of Department
- Errol Toulon, Suffolk County Sheriff
- Tim Sini, Suffolk County District Attorney
- Presiding Officer Rob Calarco
- Majority Leader William Spencer
- Minority leader Tom Cilmi
- Legislator Tom Donnelly, Chair of the Public Safety Committee
- Legislator Jason Richberg
- Legislator Sam Gonzales
- Noel DiGerolamo, President, Suffolk PBA
- Tracey Edwards, NAACP LI Regional Director
- Theresa Saunders, President, Urban League of Long Island
- Christina Vargas, Chief Diversity Officer/Title IX Coordinator Suffolk Community College
- Daniel Russo, Administrator, Assigned Council Defender Plan of Suffolk County
- Rev. Charles Coverdale, First Baptist of Riverhead
- Bishop Andy Lewter, Hollywood Baptist Cathedral
- Kathleen King, Chair Suffolk County Native American Advisory Board
- Pastor Angel Falcon, Faith Alive Ministries
- Sister Sanaa Nadim, Chaplain, Islamic Society of North America
- Cindy Reide Combs, LMSW
- Serena Liguori, Executive Director, New Hour for Women & Children
- Jennifer Leveque, Huntington Leaders of the New School
- Girish Patel, BAPS Hindu Temple
- Rabbi Abe, Kings Parks Jewish Center
- David Kilmnick, President and Chief Executive Officer, LGBT Network
In June, Governor Cuomo signed an Executive Order establishing the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative. The Executive Order requires municipalities across the state to adopt a policing plan by April 1, 2021 to be eligible for future state funding.
Over the last 5 years the Suffolk County Police Department has embraced and instituted a number of reforms that have formed a foundation that the Department continues to build upon based on President Obama’s Blueprint on 21st Century Policing. In 2018, the SCPD began training its members in Tactical Policing with Impartial Perceptions. This implicit bias training is recognized as a model for other Police Departments around the country. To date, approximately 1,600 members have been trained which equates to roughly 65% of the department’s officers. Additionally, all police recruits are trained in de-escalation techniques throughout the Police Academy program both in and out of the classroom. And finally, the SCPD Instituted significant changes in recruitment, hiring guidelines and standards with the goal of creating a more diverse Department. These reforms resulted in more people of color taking the police exam than ever before.