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With Nothing Drafted Yet, Hearing Dates Are Set For Suffolk Police Reform

Suffolk County police
Elvert Barnes

Suffolk County lawmakers have set public hearing dates on state-mandated police reform. The problem is, as of right now, there’s no plan.

Lawmakers scheduled three public hearings starting Thursday, March 11, to approve plans to reform the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office and the Suffolk County Police Department. The sheriff’s plan was released last week and proposes a review board for use of force reports and increased data collection during traffic stops.

A plan for Suffolk police hasn’t been drafted yet.

County Presiding Officer Rob Calarco, a member of the police reform task force, said members have had frequent private meetings with community groups.

“It’s taking a bit longer but I think they’ve been trying to facilitate as much input as possible and we’re getting criticized that it’s taking too long,” Calarco said.

According to interviews with several task force members, large issues haven’t yet been discussed, such as whether to allow any civilian oversight, changing polices on pre-textual traffic stops or mechanisms to increase the number of non-white police officers on the force.

County Executive Steve Bellone’s office did not respond to questions about whether the plan would be drafted before public hearings. Calacro said he’s confident it will be in time.

“If this was a true reform plan, you wouldn’t give it to the people a week or two before it’s due to the governor,” said Rob Trotta, a Republican legislator who is a frequent Bellone critic.

Trotta said he doubts that any serious reforms will be included in the plan. Trotta has long sought to prohibit elected officials from collecting campaign donations from police.

The crunched timeline in Suffolk County makes it difficult for lawmakers to include in the plan anything Bellone doesn’t put in.

In Nassau County, the process unfolded differently. Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder drafted his own plan two months ago with limited community involvement. Police then revised it to incorporate some smaller community suggestions.

This revised plan is already Nassau’s legislative calendar and could be voted on as soon March 22. Democrats in the legislature have been meeting and plan to submit reform ideas to County Executive Laura Curran based on the “people’s plan” which envisions much larger reforms that police have already rejected.