Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone launched Wednesday a new task force that will hold a series of public meetings before devising a plan to reform and reinvent local policing.

In addition to eight virtual public outreach meetings, the task force will host one-on-one meetings with stakeholders, examine current policies, and develop a comprehensive policing plan for Suffolk County to present to New York State next spring.

“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,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “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.”

The task force and state mandate to reform local policing follows protests around racial injustice that have played out nationwide and across Long Island since late May, when a Minneapolis police officer allegedly murdered George Floyd. As the Press has previously reported, Nassau County last month created a committee that will explore alternative approaches to law enforcement intervention in situations regarding mental health. 

“The NAACP supports an increase in trust and public safety for all communities by advancing effective law enforcement practices,” said NAACP Long Island Regional Director Tracey Edwards, one of 30 members of the task force. “Moving forward with an inclusive task force to tackle these issues together with the police and other stakeholders is a great first step.”

Other members of the task force include Suffolk County Police Department Commissioner Geraldine Hart, Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon, county legislators, nonprofit leaders, and local clergy, such as Rev. Charles Coverdale of First Baptist of Riverhead.

“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,” said Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue). “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.”

Related Story: Nassau Committee Will Study Police Response to Mental Health Crises

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Timothy Bolger is the Editor in Chief of the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.