Suffolk County lawmakers voted in a 35-year-old former federal prosecutor as the new Suffolk police commissioner, making him the youngest man to lead the department.
The Democratic-led county legislature voted Tuesday 14-3 to confirm Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s nomination of Timothy Sini, who is from Bellone’s hometown of Babylon. Sini inherits the tall task of cleaning up the mess left by Bellone’s previously appointed chief of the department, James Burke, who pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges two months ago for allegedly beating a suspect and orchestrating a cover-up.
“I’m humbled by this experience,” Sini said after the vote. “I’m going to do everything in my power to move this department forward and do the right thing by the residents of Suffolk County.”
Sini, who previously served as Bellone’s deputy county executive for public safety, unsuccessfully challenged Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), the legislature’s GOP minority leader, in November.
Around the same time, Ed Webber, the previous Suffolk police commissioner, announced his plans to retire. Bellone then appointed Sini as deputy police commissioner, and, once Webber left office last month, Sini was named acting police commissioner.
Sini wasted no time in signaling he was intent on turning the department around. Among his first moves was announcing plans to invite the FBI to work more closely on the Long Island Serial Killer case, gang investigations and other probes. More recently, he unveiled plans to revamp the internal affairs unit, crack down on drug houses and hinted at an upcoming “unprecedented” law enforcement partnership.
Despite his efforts, not everyone lent Sini their support. Some critics questioned why Bellone declined to perform a national search for candidates to replace Webber and instead opted for a local political appointee. After first taking office, Bellone had appointed Webber acting commissioner amid a national search before opting to name Webber the department’s previous top cop.
“I’m disappointed in the process that was used here,” said Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), a former detective and leading Burke critic. “There was no search.”
Trotta added that he’ll give Sini a chance, but warned that he’ll be watching for any mistakes.
Other Republican lawmakers questioned whether Sini planned to use the experience to pad his resume and run for district attorney in the future. Sini said he had no such plans.
But he did win the vote of two members of the GOP minority. Legis. Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), a former police officer, broke ranks with his fellow Republicans and voted for Sini. So did Legis. Tom Barraga (R-West Islip). Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Smithtown) abstained from the vote.
Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley), chair of the public safety committee, blasted Bellone during a prior hearing on Sini’s appointment, but later opted to vote for the commissioner.
Sini’s confirmation comes amid reports that the federal probe into the Burke case has expanded to include Christopher McPartland, the public corruption bureau chief under District Attorney Tom Spota. The charges and continuing investigation loomed large over the confirmation hearing. Democrats resisted GOP lawmakers’ calls to open a legislative review into the Burke scandal, citing their concern that it would clash with the federal probe.
“Mr. Sini has instituted aggressive changes within the department,” Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said. “He has also promoted some of Suffolk County’s most respected officers to leadership positions, and he has committed to ensuring women and minorities are better-represented among the department’s ranks. I look forward to the Legislature’s continued work with Mr. Sini to increase both transparency and trust in our department.”
Meanwhile, in neighboring Nassau County, acting Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter, who was also appointed after a predecessor resigned following a scandal, has yet to be sent by Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano to the Nassau County Legislature for confirmation, more than two years after taking over.