In response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative, Suffolk County has created a task force that will be conducting eight community forums as well as one-one-one stakeholder meetings over the next six months in order to develop a plan to be presented on April 1, 2021.
“Over the last few years, we have made real progress in diversifying our police force and building community trust by embracing and instituting a number of reforms, but we know our work isn’t done,” said county executive Steve Bellone. “The development of the comprehensive policing plan, with direct input from the community, will help us build upon the progress we have made and implement strategies that will improve policing. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to create positive change that will enhance community policing and strengthen the relationship between all of our diverse communities and those who patrol our communities.”
Additionally, surveys will be disseminated to both random individuals as well as people who have had recent interactions with police, for the remainder of the calendar year. These surveys —more than 6,000 in total—will be utilized to learn how individuals feel about Suffolk County Police Department.
“This survey is a valuable tool that will enable the county to gauge feedback from the public and their experiences with our police department,” Bellone said. “This is part of our ongoing process to ensure an open dialogue with residents that will better inform the development of our comprehensive policing plan.”
The surveys will be conducted by the John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety. Once completed, the institute will prepare a report summarizing the findings and interpretations to measure police legitimacy, perceptions of bias-based policing, and perceptions of the thoroughness with which SCPD investigates complaints.
“This is an important step to gain valuable insight into how we are doing as a department and how our members are interacting with the public,” said county police commissioner Geraldine Hart. “We need the support of our communities to continue to be a successful department. I encourage people to respond to the surveys because it will enable us to continue to move toward a more fair and equitable department.”
Hart, as well as SCPD chief of department Stuart Cameron and Suffolk County presiding officer Rob Calarco, are all members of the task force.
“It is important that in doing this work, we hear from a large contingent of voices and bring to the table community members from across the spectrum,” Calarco said. “This is a tremendous opportunity to consider our policies with fresh, open eyes, and to engage in honest, fact-driven dialogue. My colleagues and I look forward to working with this task force to ensure we are providing policing in a manner that is fair and just for all, with buy-in from the communities we serve and mindful of the difficulties facing police officers.”
The community outreach meetings will be organized around the seven precincts in the Suffolk County Police District. If the county does not draft a plan by April 1, they will lose eligibility for future state funding.