The Nassau County Legislature approved a state-mandated police reform plan that equips officers with body cameras, diverts some 911 calls to mental health experts and collects and publishes data on a wide range of issues.
The plan did not adopt a number of amendments that police reform advocates pushed for including civilian oversight, an independent inspector general and removing police from schools.
Eight Democrats attempted to delay the final vote another week to have their amendments considered. Three Democrats — all African American — voted against approving the final plan saying that it didn’t address racial disparities in policing.
Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder was repeatedly grilled on why more Black Nassau residents are subjected to use of force than white residents. Ryder rebuked the assertion that his police department is racist. He was backed up by Republican Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello.
“This is not a racist institution. The bottom line is that the Nassau County Police Department has been tremendously successful. We have the lowest crime rate in a generation,” Nicolello said. “But we do have continuing threats and we need to focus on those threats.”
The meeting was tense with emotion and was preceded by a two-hour appeal from advocates led by civil rights lawyer Fredrick Brewington.
“If indeed it can’t be done in the quiet of a hollowed chamber we will go to the streets,” Brewington said.
Brewington and other reformers wanted the Legislature to wait a week to read two more amendments to the plan. They left the chamber after the attempt to delay the vote failed.