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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.

Suffolk Police Release Reform Plan That Falls Short Of Advocates’ Hopes

Suffolk County Police
Elvert Barnes

The Suffolk County Police Department, the 13th largest police department in the U.S., released a 1,000-page reform plan that fell short of the basic hope advocates had: fewer police interactions with the community. The report that was published on the County Legislature's website contained jumbled text. It has since been corrected.

The plan did not propose key changes reformers wanted, such as ending pretextual traffic stops, no-knock warrants, or removing police from schools.

However, advocates applauded the county’s acknowledgment of disparate policing in Black and Latino communities. The plan said that while not all opinions of the reform task force could be adopted, it received a consensus from all members that it was the best achievable plan at the moment.

The largest proposed change includes banning consent-only searches during traffic stops, which Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said led to unequal policing of communities of color.

“We believe that this will go very far to address what we saw as post-stop inequities of search data of individuals that were stopped,” Hart said in her presentation of the plan.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered all police departments in the state to review and reform their policies and engage with community groups during the process. He ordered this nine months ago. The plan was not released until moments before a public hearing. Large topics of change were left undiscussed until this week.

The plan tasks the county Human Rights Commission with receiving and “reviewing” complaints of police misconduct. It proposes increasing the budget of the Commission. However, the power to investigate and discipline police misconduct will still reside with the police.

Tyrell Dozier, a police reform advocate, said this will do nothing to hinder police from policing themselves.

“This idea erodes the fundamental trust that communities have in their law enforcement agencies. In the court of law, we would never allow a jury to be made up of an alleged perpetrator's family,” Dozier said.

Officials also proposed equipping all police officers with body cameras but said the costs are unknown and negotiations with the police union are still ongoing.

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.