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Civilian complaints in Nassau County decline after police body cameras program begins

Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder speaks as Bruce Blakeman, the newly sworn-in county executive, looks on.
Charles Lane
WSHU Public Radio
Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder speaks as Bruce Blakeman, the newly sworn-in county executive, looks on.

Civilian complaints against police officers have fallen because of the implementation of body worn cameras, according to the Nassau County Police Department. Top law enforcement officials also forwarded 15 internal affairs investigations to the New York State Attorney General’s office for further review.

“I’m not saying that we proved that the public is wrong,” Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder told the county Legislature during a meeting about the implementation of the state-mandated police reform plan. He was referring to accusations made against the department about police misconduct.

As part of a series of state laws passed in 2020, local police departments are required to send civilian complaints over a certain threshold to the state. Ryder told lawmakers that he believes all of the cases will come back as unfounded.

“We also proved that our cops needed to be a bit more courteous when they deal with the public,” Ryder said.

The commissioner also said overall summons issued by police plummeted after the pandemic and dropped even further since the police reform plan. During the meeting, Ryder said he has told officers that some things don’t need to be a summons.

“Conversations with our officers about sensitivity, about going into communities, about looking at things like obstructed views in the windshield,” he said.

According to Ryder’s presentation, summonses went from 214,000 in 2019 to 104,000 in 2021. Thirty-seven percent of those were served to white people, which is disproportionate to the 55% of Nassau’s population who identify as white. However, Ryder said 44% of summons went to non-county residents.

Advocates for police reform criticized the police department’s lack of transparency, enumerating a number of lawsuits against the department trying to get more information.

“We’d like all the waters to get unmuddied with all the data,” said Susan Gottehrer, regional director for the New York Civil Liberties Union.

“We’re giving the data that we agreed to give during the reform,” Ryder said. “I will never give unfettered access to my data system because that’s crazy, you can’t do that.”

Charles is senior reporter focusing on special projects. He has won numerous awards including an IRE award, three SPJ Public Service Awards, and a National Murrow. He was also a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and Third Coast Director’s Choice Award.