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Nassau County police blame malls for racially disproportionate arrests

A police reform advocate speaks during a Nassau County legislative hearing updating NCPD's progress on police reform.
Charles Lane
A police reform advocate speaks during a Nassau County legislative hearing updating its police department's progress on police reform.

The Nassau County Police Department blamed its disproportionate arrests of Black and Hispanic people on the large number of malls along the Queens-Nassau border. The revelation came during a presentation by Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder to Nassau County's Public Safety Committee.

Police data shows that even though Black and Hispanic people make up 29% of Nassau’s population, they make up 60% of the department's arrests.

Ryder told lawmakers that non-Nassau residents are coming to the county’s malls, including the Westbury and Roosevelt Field malls.

"Uniondale has the large Walmart and supermarket where we have a lot of arrests," Ryder said. "Valley Stream has the Green Acres Mall where again, these are our initiatives.”

However, the department’s data shows greater disparities that Ryder did not explain.

For example, Black people were disproportionately subjected to more field interviews. For Black and Hispanic people, 28% of these interviews lead to searches as opposed to just 20% of white people.

Additionally, Black and Hispanic drivers were disproportionately pulled over. When Black and Hispanic drivers were ticketed, they were given an average of three tickets per stop whereas white drivers received two tickets per stop.

Police reform advocates said the police department is making an excuse for its biased police.

"Last year, we asked the police commissioner to provide data demographically disaggregated by resident and non-resident," said Susan Gottehrer, an organizer for the New York Civil Liberties Union. "Not only did he not supply it, but he took down the data's website."

Ryder also made several revelations regarding officer misconduct.

“This past year alone, nine officers have been forced to resign, have been terminated, or forced to retire because of their behavior," Ryder said. "That's the most done in the history of this department.”

Ryder also said that the New York state attorney general’s office has begun reviewing several of Nassau’s internal affairs investigations. According to Ryder, the attorney general found that in two of the five internal affairs investigations so far completed, Ryder did not punish the officer’s misconduct sufficiently.

"If the AG doesn't like it, the AG overrides it and comes down with a stricter penalty," Ryder said.

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.