(BRENTWOOD, NY) – Yesterday, the Suffolk County Legislature adopted the reform plan for the Suffolk County Police Department, prepared pursuant to New York State Executive Order No. 203, “NYS Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative.” Following police brutality protests nationwide, the order directed each local government entity with a police agency to perform a comprehensive review of current police practices and develop a plan to reinvent policing.
The state-mandated police reform plan includes more funding for tiered mental health response, a permanent task force to reevaluate police in schools, more public data about traffic and pedestrian stops, and more specific description about the role the County’s Human Rights Commission will have in misconduct investigations conducted by the police department’s internal affairs bureau.
However, independent oversight of police conduct was not included, which steered Legislator Sam Gonzalez to take the righteous stance of being the lone vote against the plan, as he believes independence is the most important part.
“This reform plan is about our future; not only will it affect residents today, but it will also impact generations of residents long after us,” Legislator Gonzalez said. “The plan is insufficient and will not be effective unless there is serious discipline for wrongful actions. Clearly, there is a crisis of mistrust and for change to be successful – there must be accountability.”
Legislator Gonzalez praised the police union’s effort to reach a compromise and commended the task force for putting their blood, sweat, and tears into the creation of the plan but believes police policies should be subject to public review and debate instead of being viewed as the sole province of police insiders. Open policy-making not only allows police officials to benefit from community input, but it also provides an opportunity for police officials to explain to the public why certain tactics or procedures may be necessary. This kind of communication can help anticipate problems and avert crises before they occur.
“I am deeply committed to my community, and pledge to continue working tirelessly to advocate on their behalf, as I believe together we can turn challenges into opportunities,” said Legislator Gonzalez. One of the most essential qualities of leadership is not perfection. Its credibility.”