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WSHU's Charles Lane follows the different paths taken by Suffolk and Nassau counties on Long Island to undergo mandated police reform.

Nassau Lawmakers Will Consider Two Police Reform Plans

Nassau County Police officers walk alongside protesters participating in a Black Lives Matter march through a residential neighborhood calling for racial justice, Monday, July 13, 2020, in Valley Stream, N.Y.
AP Photo/John Minchillo
Nassau County Police officers walk alongside protesters participating in a Black Lives Matter march through a residential neighborhood calling for racial justice, Monday, July 13, 2020, in Valley Stream, N.Y.

Police drafted their own reform plan. So the people are drafting theirs. It will be up to lawmakers to decide which of the two very different versions of policing Nassau County residents will have.

  • Reformers have been meeting to develop “the people’s plan” for police reform.
  • It will likely stress a smaller police presence, a focus on the “root causes” of crime, and a push for a CCRB.
  • The state declined to intervene in Nassau’s reform process citing the county’s community input.
  • Nassau Democrats will offer parts of the “people’s plan” as amendments to the police’s plan.
  • A CCRB is unlikely to be considered by lawmakers.

Police reformers in Nassau County started drafting their own reform plan even before they resigned in protest from two groups set up by the county to propose changes to the Nassau County Police Department.

They hope to present their plan — what they’re calling the “people’s plan” — sometime in the next month, which will likely argue for a smaller police presence.

“Hyper-policing in communities of color does not work in deterring crime,” Elmer Flores, a member of LI United to Transform Policing and Community Safety, said in a recent meeting. “And so we’re here to suggest that this needs to be re-addressed and reappropriated.”

He and other police reform advocates went to social media to offer a two-hour synopsis of the reform plan put forward by police earlier this month by Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.

They faulted the Commissioner’s plan for proposing more police, not less.

“We really believe again in reinvesting the financial resources required to build community trust into community partner agencies that direly need the resources,” Flores said, “and exploring other avenues of building trust that do not involve and being in every corner of the community.”

Or in other words, defund the police.

Susan Gotthner, also with LI United, said the fundamental flaw of the Commissioner’s plan is that it doesn't address the root cause of crime.

“Such as poverty, social disadvantage, parenting practices, and school performance,” she said.

In contrast, she said, the Commissioner is concerned with near crime causes.

“What this does is it blocks out the possibility of redistribution of other resources to that other way of thinking,” she said.

A spokesman for Police Commissioner Ryder ignored multiple requests for an interview. One reformer still on the county’s reform task force said the county will host two more community listening sessions in the coming weeks.

Reform advocates did support some of the Commissioner’s reform suggestions. For example, the push for better data collection and diverting mental health calls away from police and toward mental health experts.

State Declines To Intervene, Leaving It Up To Lawmakers

Overall, reformers said, the Commissioner’s plan does not fulfill New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order to seriously consider changes to policing. Advocates said they met with officials from Cuomo’s office and asked that the state assign an independent moderator to intervene.

“New York State declined to provide an independent convener,” said Terryl Dozier, also with LI United.

Dozier said the state saw two community groups set up by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, as well as several Facebook listening sessions, as sufficient evidence of community input.

Cuomo’s office declined to answer questions and instead offered a statement.

“Remember: every jurisdiction's reform plan must be ratified by their local legislature, which ensures all community members can make their voices heard and have a seat at the table,” the statement read.

This means the Nassau County Legislature will soon be asked to consider two very different styles of policing.

All 11 Republican lawmakers in the majority caucus failed to respond to requests for comment. Minority leader and Democrat Kevan Abrahams did respond. He said the Legislature is likely to consider both the Commissioner’s plan and the “people’s plan.”

“Which represents a large segment of the communities of color and from that standpoint, we’re going to incorporate their concepts, as long as we can get agreement within our caucus, we’re going to present those concepts as amendments to the overall plan,” Abrahams said.

What’s likely to be a big part of the “people’s plan” is civilian oversight of the police, what’s often called a Civilian Complaint Review Board, or CCRB. Abrahams doesn’t think that’s likely because the Police Commissioner Ryder doesn’t support it.

“I truly believe that transparency can be achieved in many different ways, and building consensus around what that would look like is an easier process than trying to achieve a CCRB if it’s not going to be tenable through the legislature and the Commissioner,” Abrahams said.

Ultimately, whatever the lawmakers approve in terms of police reform will be up to the Republicans in the majority. Those advocating for police change said they have met with majority leader of the Legislature, Richard Nicolello.

When asked if the meeting went well, one reformer, Frederick Brewington, wrote, “I think so.”

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.