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Suffolk’s ‘Most Diverse’ Police Detective Class Comes After Promotion Scandal And Lawsuit

Suffolk County police
Elvert Barnes

Suffolk County has what it calls the "most diverse detective level promotion class" in its history. Meanwhile, the police department is dealing with a scandal and lawsuit over the racial gap in its leadership.

At the same time County Executive Steve Bellone announced the promotions, he said two officers were disciplined for cheating. He said an internal affairs investigation revealed no systemic problems. Yet, going forward, he said an investigator with the New York State Police will be part of the candidate interviews.

“The addition of the New York State Police officer brought an objective individual with a fresh perspective into the interview process. And it proved to be incredibly beneficial,” Bellone said.

In February WSHU reported that, at ranks detective and above, 90% of Suffolk police is white and that Black officers blame nepotism. In May, internal affairs launched an investigation into an officer given answers to the detective interview. In June, a Latino police detective filed a $35 million lawsuit alleging discrimination in being passed over for promotion.

Suffolk is one of the highest paying police departments in the country where average salaries top $200,000. Henry Smart is a professor of criminal justice management at John Jay College.

“When you have a high paying gig, you want to protect that. It's a double wall for the outsider. And so there's a higher level of scrutiny. But there's also just these higher level of protections of these positions," Smart said.

The so-called "most diverse detective-level promotion class in county history” included 11 women or people of color. That's 33% of the class. Police officials have so far declined to offer specific demographics.

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.
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