police reform

More than a dozen residents spoke at a public hearing the Suffolk County Legislature held Tuesday on the county police reform task force’s drafted plan to reinvent policing 14 days before the legislature will vote on a plan to submit to New York State.

During the public hearing via Zoom, legislators were not permitted to ask residents questions, which Legislators Anthony A. Piccirillo (R-Holbrook) and Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) fought to change by demanding a vote, which failed. Of the residents who spoke, most opposed to the county task force plan and supported an independent plan, The People’s Plan, crafted by coalitions of local advocacy organizations called Long Island United to Transform Policing and Community Safety (LI United) and Long Island Advocates for Police Accountability (LIAFPA).

“The task force plan is short on specifics,” said Lynn Kaufman, of LI United. “At the end of the day, the police would still be policing themselves.”

The county plan, which was released on March 12, includes changes in community policing, traffic and pedestrian stops, transparency with data, mental health response, recruitment and staffing, training, and continuing education. 

“Suffolk County has developed a historic policing plan that serves as a model for how to produce real reform, enhance transparency and accountability, and foster community trust,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “This plan is a reflection of the input that was received — a blueprint for lasting change — and will serve as a roadmap to build upon the progress we have already made.”

Two notable pieces of the plan include the addition of body cameras for all officers and a Human Rights Commission (HRC), an independent body that would review police complaints. The police department’s internal affairs division would conduct investigations.

However, those who spoke at the hearing said the HRC would not be enough. Instead, they offered up the solution found in the People’s Plan, establishing a civilian complaint review board (CCRB) and unbiased police inspector general to provide oversight of the department.

“Anything less than a CCRB is unacceptable,” said resident and advocate Lisa Votino.

Two of the advocates who spoke at the Suffolk hearing had presented the People’s Plan to the Nassau County Legislature on Feb. 24.

Two Spanish-speaking women, who were identified as Kim and Gabriela L., spoke about their past interactions with the Suffolk police in which no translator was provided and their issues were not resolved, they said. Both the county plan and the People’s Plan include an expanded language access system in the police force.

“The police need to treat us with more respect,” Gabriela said. “All of us deserve to feel safe in our community, regardless of race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.”

The Suffolk legislature will hold another hearing on police reform Thursday at 6 p.m. via Zoom.

To read Suffolk County’s police reform plan, visit suffolkcountyny.gov.

To read “The People’s Plan,” visit liafpa.org/the-peoples-plan.

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