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Suffolk County Police Department

Former Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota. File photo

Jurors rendered the verdicts Dec. 17 for former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota and the head of his corruption bureau Christopher McPartland.

On the charge of conspiracy to tamper with witnesses and obstruct an official proceeding against Spota and McPartland: “Guilty.” On the charge of witness tampering and obstruction of an official proceeding against Spota and McPartland: “Guilty.” On the charge of obstruction of justice against Spota and McPartland: “Guilty.”

The case revealed local corruption and cover-ups that required the assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI. Some officials, who have issued formal statements, say they are thrilled with the outcome, including current Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart and Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga).

“As we learned, the very people charged with upholding the law were the ones who were found guilty of assisting James Burke in his attempt to get away with his crime,” Hart stated. “Instead of being leaders and standing up for justice, they did their best to manipulate the system and everyone who stood in their way.”

Trotta, a former Suffolk County police detective and an often outspoken critic of the department, said he feels vindicated.

“It is unfortunate for the honest and dedicated cops that these men thought they were above the law and could get away with anything,” Trotta said. “Thanks to the great work of the United States Attorney’s Office and the diligence of the jury, justice will be served.”

“It is unfortunate for the honest and dedicated cops that these men thought they were above the law and could get away with anything,”

– Rob Trotta

Spota and McPartland were indicted in Oct. 2017 on federal charges for covering up the crimes of former police chief James Burke. In 2012, Burke, a St. James resident, was charged and convicted of assaulting Christopher Loeb, of Smithtown, who broke into Burke’s department-issued SUV that was parked in front of the former police chief’s home and stole a duffel bag allegedly containing a gun belt, ammunition, sex toys and pornography. Burke, according to prosecutors, beat Loeb inside the 4th Precinct station house in Hauppauge. After being sentenced to 46 months in prison, Burke was released Nov. 2018. He completed his sentence under house arrest in April 2019.

Both Hart and Trotta have suggested that related investigations continue.

“We have been monitoring this case closely and remain in contact with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District,” Hart stated. “We are also in the process of reviewing all of the testimony and evidence presented at trial, and upon further review will take appropriate action if warranted.”

Trotta is particularly concerned about rooting out further corruption, an issue central to his 2019 reelection campaign.

“Unfortunately, this trial exposed that corruption continues in Suffolk County and hopefully the United States Attorney’s Office will continue its investigation into Suffolk’s widespread corruption problem,” Trotta stated. “It’s embarrassing that the DA, chief of corruption, chief of police, chair of the conservative party have all been arrested and found guilty in the past few years.”

However, Hart holds a more positive outlook.

“We want to assure members of the public that the current leadership of this department is committed to integrity, honesty and professionalism,” she stated. “I am continuously impressed by the work and level of commitment by our police officers and residents of this county should feel proud of their police department.

 

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Port Jefferson officials amended the village code to allow Suffolk County police and code enforcement officers to impound bicycles from reckless riders, including juveniles. Photo from SCPD

Village officials have moved to curb reckless biking around Port Jeff by impounding bikes of people they find breaking the code.

At the Nov. 4 board meeting, Port Jefferson officials amended the village code to allow Suffolk County police and code enforcement officers to impound bicycles from reckless riders, including juveniles.

“As an era of common sense is not really operating anymore regarding bicycles, we have heard and seen kids running in front of cars, playing games where they’re hooking onto cars — incredibly dangerous activities out there,” village attorney Brian Egan said. “Vehicles are taking incredibly dangerous maneuvers to avoid these bikes.”

The code’s language forbids persons from trick riding, which usually comes in the form of wheelies, weaving back and forth in traffic or hanging onto automobiles driving on the road. It also forbids people from riding distracted, such as while using a phone or camera, though using a GoPro camera or similar devices while biking is permissible, according to the village attorney. 

Acting Chief of Code Enforcement Fred Leute Jr. could not be reached for comment.

Egan said at the Nov. 4 meeting that the law was being “narrowly tailored” to still allow bike riding in the village.

Bikes seized by either code enforcement or Suffolk police are kept in Port Jeff at the Department of Public Works building, with a record of impounding kept by the head of Code Enforcement. A parent or guardian can retrieve the impounded bike on behalf of a minor. 

Some residents at the meeting questioned if there were any issues with taking and impounding a minor’s bike, but Egan said it has worked for villages like Babylon.

“In practice, we see from other villages that these bikes never get retrieved,” he said. 

Mayor Margot Garant said after they reach a certain number of bikes that are not recovered after a time, they would hold an auction like they have done for kayaks left on village racks after the season is complete. She said the village would likely decrease the price of impounded bikes based on age.

“We have to review the impounding fee, because I think with the kayaks, we didn’t take into consideration an aging timeline, it was one set fee and here we were with all these kayaks,” she said.

In August of this year, the Village of Babylon passed a similar measure to curb the number of reckless bicyclists. That village fined riders over 16 years of age $250 when charged with violating the village code. 

The village has yet to set any fines from breaking this new section of the code or for retrieving the bike. Village officials said that decision would come at a future date after discussion, likely the next board meeting Nov. 18.

 

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File photo

Suffolk County Police Sixth Squad detectives are investigating a single-vehicle crash that killed a man in Mount Sinai on Oct. 20.

Ralph Maiello was driving a 2019 Chevrolet pickup truck southbound on County Road 83 when his vehicle left the roadway and struck a tree just south of Mount Sinai-Coram Road at approximately 9:05 a.m.

Maiello, 55, of Coram, was transported to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson where he was pronounced dead.

The pickup truck was impounded for a safety check. Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the Sixth Squad at 631-854-8652.

File photo

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and 6th Precinct Crime Section officers are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate the man who allegedly stole merchandise from a Selden store on two dates in June.

A man allegedly stole a power bank battery charger from Target, located at 307 Independence Plaza, on June 11 at approximately 9 p.m. The same man returned to the store at approximately 8:15 a.m. on June 16 and allegedly stole a second power bank.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS, texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637) or by email at www.tipsubmit.com. All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart and Executive Steve Bellone attend a June 14 press conference to announce a partnership between SCPD and Stony Brook Medicine to host Mobile Mammography Van events in the county. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

Stony Brook Medicine and the Suffolk County Police Department are joining forces to provide proactive health services to residents.

“By partnering with Stony Brook Medicine to bring their Mobile Mammography Van to a number of different locations all across the county this summer, we are making it easier than ever for working women to get checked.”

— Steve Bellone

Officials announced June 14 that the police department and Stony Brook Medicine’s Mobile Mammography Van will host events this summer at various county locations. The events will provide convenient access to mammography examinations for SCPD employees as well as the public.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart, who was previously diagnosed with breast cancer, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), members of the Suffolk County Police Department and Stony Brook’s Mobile Mammography Program coordinator Dr. Patrick Dineen were on hand for the announcement.

“Commissioner Hart should serve as an inspiration to us all, using her own personal experience with breast cancer to raise awareness about the power of early detection, which has saved countless lives,” Bellone said. “By partnering with Stony Brook Medicine to bring their Mobile Mammography Van to a number of different locations all across the county this summer, we are making it easier than ever for working women to get checked.”

Officers from the Community Relations Bureau, Canine and Aviation Sections will be on hand to interact with children while their parents are being screened, according to county officials. Activities will include demonstrations, games and giveaways.

Hart said her first mammogram detected cancer in its earliest stages, and she hoped sharing her story would inspire others to be screened.

“Our mission includes fighting crime and one of the most effective ways to continue to drive down crime is to ensure we are finding new ways to partner with all our communities,” she said. “I believe our partnership with Stony Brook Medicine will serve as a great outreach to members of the community.”

Dineen said Stony Brook Medicine was thrilled about the collaboration.

“Our mission includes fighting crime and one of the most effective ways to continue to drive down crime is to ensure we are finding new ways to partner with all our communities.”

— Geraldine Hart

“The partnership between Stony Brook Medicine and the SCPD strengthens the efforts to ensure that all women from all socioeconomic backgrounds have easier access to screenings since we visit various locations such as businesses, school districts, libraries and churches throughout Long Island,” he said. “Furthermore, not only is the SCPD dedicated to helping our community members, they believe in this program so much that we have scheduled screening events at SCPD headquarters and the 4th Precinct so that staff members are also staying on top of their health.”

Eligible residents can visit the van for screenings at the following locations:

• Diamond in the Pines, 1844 Route 112, Coram — June 29 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

• St. Hugh of Lincoln R.C. Church, 21 E. 9th St., Huntington Station — July 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• St. Anne’s R.C. Church, 88 2nd Ave., Brentwood — July 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• SCPD 4th Precinct, 727 Route 454, Hauppauge — July 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

According to Stony Brook’s website, the Mobile Mammography Van team provides services to women on Long Island, age 40 and older, who have not had a mammogram in the last year and are not pregnant. No prescription is needed. Women seeking mammograms at the mobile events should not have implants or breast issues, such as a lump or nipple discharge, and never been diagnosed with breast cancer. They should also have had an office visit with a gynecologist, primary care physician or internist within the past year who is willing to accept the results of the screening. Individuals who do not have health insurance will be processed through the Cancer Services Program of New York, if eligible. On the day of the  mammogram, women should not wear deodorant, perfume, powders, lotions or creams on the breast area.

The van travels Suffolk and Nassau counties all year round and features a registration area, waiting room, private changing and exam space, 3-D equipment and an all-female medical staff.

For more information, call 1-833-MY-MAMMO or Dineen’s office at 631-432-0267.

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May Garwin. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are seeking the public’s help to locate an East Setauket woman, May Garwin, who was reported missing last week.

A relative of Garwin reported her missing to police May 26. The relative said she last saw the missing person April 4 at Garwin’s home, located at 5 Hansom Lane. Garwin is 36 years old, 5 feet 5 inches tall, approximately 130 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. She has no previously reported mental or physical health issues.

Garwin’s vehicle was impounded by the New York Police Department on May 6 after it was parked illegally on Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on Garwin’s location to call 911 or the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

Mannequin found in driver's car in the HOV lane of the Long Island Expressway. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

Suffolk County Police issued a Centereach man a ticket after he was pulled over for driving with a phony passenger in the HOV lane on the Long Island Expressway in Dix Hills this afternoon.

Highway patrol officer Andrew Spina was traveling on the Long Island Expressway, near exit 51, when he became suspicious of the front seat passenger in a 2002 Saturn sedan traveling in the HOV lane.

Spina pulled over the vehicle and observed that the driver, James Britt, had placed a mannequin wearing a sweatshirt, sunglasses, hat and jeans into the front passenger seat in an attempt to resemble a person.

Britt, 34, was issued a summons for the HOV occupancy violations.

Tint meter used to detect the level of colored tint on car windows. Photo from SCPD video on illegal tints

Driving around Long Island, it’s most likely you have seen vehicles with a dark sheen of having their windows tinted. 

Suffolk County police have said some may have been illegally darkened, but still managed to pass inspection. A 2017 New York State law requires window tint testing during annual motor vehicle inspections, though Suffolk County police had seen an increase in window tint violation summons issued in the two years since the new law took effect. 

In response, police conducted a three-month sting operation from November 2018 to January of this year on 11 state inspection stations that were suspected of passing vehicles with illegally tinted windows. One turned out to be an automotive place in Selden.

Police used a decoy vehicle that had tinted windows that blocked 95 percent of light at these inspection stations. Operation Black Glass, as police called the sting operation, found that two of the 11 stations passed the decoy car and issued inspection stickers. 

Staria Auto of Selden and Baldwin Automotive of East Patchogue were the two inspection stations that illegally passed the decoy vehicle. The other nine stations correctly did not issue an inspection sticker to the decoy, police said. 

Suffolk Police Chief Stuart Cameron provided an explanation of the origins of the operation.

“If a car has illegally tinted windows, it should be failed and taken off the road until the tint is removed and the car is made legal.”

— Stuart Cameron

“Late last year I was driving on the expressway and I was still noticing a significant number of vehicles on the roadways with tinted windows, far more than I would expect to see after this law was in effect for two years,” Cameron said. “I wanted to see what the issue was — why wasn’t this law working like it was anticipated to.”

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) stressed the issue of officer safety when it comes to illegally tinted windows and traffic stops. 

“It’s one of the most dangerous situations a police officer can be involved in because there is extreme unknown,” Bellone said. “The danger associated with traffic stops gets heightened by the fact that there are vehicles on the road that have [these] tinted windows.” 

The state requires tinted windows to block only up to 30 percent of light, barring medical exceptions for the driver, officials said. 

The offending stations were referred to the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles, which could impose penalties on their inspection licenses. 

Police issued close to 6,000 summonses last year, far more than before the new law took effect. 

Cameron enlisted the help of the criminal intelligence section and asked them to do a comparison against the window tints summons officers have written, to the inspection stations that had issued an inspection certificate to those cars, to see if there was a pattern. 

Eleven inspection stations stood out and were targeted in the sting. 

Cameron reiterated officer safety, saying anything could be happening when you can’t see what’s behind these windows.  

“[These inspection stations] have an obligation to uphold a New York State law when cars are being brought in to be inspected,” the county police chief said. “If a car has illegally tinted windows, it should be failed and taken off the road until the tint is removed and the car is made legal.” 

Bellone said Suffolk residents should not  put officers’ safety at risk, for essentially a cosmetic addition to a vehicle.

“It’s not something we are going to tolerate, we are going to do everything to protect officers who are out there protecting us each and every day,” he said.

Huntington High School. File photo

Exactly two months after a New York Times Magazine article about the deportation of a Honduran immigrant rocked the Huntington school community, Suffolk County Police Department and Suffolk County school superintendents have agreed on a job description for school resource officers.

Kenneth Bossert, president of Suffolk County Schools Superintendents Association, said his organization has been diligently working hand-in-hand with Suffolk police to craft the one-page document that sets out a 19-point bullet list outlining the roles and responsibilities of every school resource officer shared with TBR News Media Feb. 26.

“This document is intended to specify what these roles and responsibilities have been and is in no way intended to modify this existing program, which has achieved much success since it was established decades ago,” read a joint statement issues by Suffolk police and the superintendents association.

Suffolk’s SRO program was established in 1998, but there has never previously been a formal written document outlining the responsibilities of an SRO, according to Bossert. The issue has become a matter of pressing local concern after ProPublica reporter Hannah Dreier wrote in her Dec. 27 article that Huntington’s SRO officer Drew Fiorello was allegedly involved in providing evidence resulting in the deportation of Alex, a Huntington High School student accused of being involved with MS-13.

“[An MOU] is different from a list of roles and responsibilities, it has a legal seriousness to it different from those.”

-Josh Dubnau

“For years, I believed the [school resource officer] was placed there to protect us,” 2016 graduate Savannah Richardson said at Jan. 9 board of education meeting. “I was never aware information shared with the SRO would end up in the hands of ICE.”

At the top of new one-page policy document outlining of an SRO’s responsibilities is, “perform all duties, responsibilities, and lawful requirements of a duly sworn Suffolk County Police Officer.”  This is immediately followed by the directive that SRO officers should, “Forge and maintain effective relationships” with all students and school staff.

Some of the outlined duties and responsibilities set forth in the SRO policy are very broad based and vague in details. For example, “Assist school officials when matters involving law enforcement officers are required” does not give any further explanation but seems open to individual interpretation.

Both Bossert and a police spokesperson made clear the document is not in any way to be construed or taken as a Memorandum of Understanding.

“If any individual district opts to take further action, that would be up to individual board of education and the SCPD,” Bossert said.

Huntington Superintendent James Polansky and the district’s board of education previously promised in a Dec. 28 letter to the community that they would seek an MOU as “such an agreement would establish formal procedural guidelines associated with the SRO position, as well as with information flow and restrictions.”  The superintendent also expressed in January that any MOU would likely need to be individualized per school district.

Polansky did not respond to requests for comments on the new SRO policy outlining the position’s role and responsibilities.

Several requests made by Huntington school district parents, students and community members over the last two months for clear boundaries and restrictions on the SRO’s position are not reflected by the new one-page policy. There is no mention made of SROs receiving required training in areas such as cultural competency or restorative justice practices and nothing regarding privacy of students and their records. Notably, there was no community forum or event provided for residents as was repeatedly requested by Huntington parents and students to give their input on the agreement. 

“This document is intended to specify what these roles and responsibilities have been and is in no way intended to modify this existing program…”

— Joint statement

Huntington parent Josh Dubnau reissued his call for a full Memorandum of Understanding contract as “necessary” between the school district and Suffolk police at the Feb. 25 board of education meeting while wearing a T-shirt that read, “Agents of Change.”

“[An MOU] is different from a handshake agreement, different from a gentleman’s or woman’s agreement,” he said. “It is different from a list of roles and responsibilities, it has a legal seriousness to it different from those.”

Dubnau called for Huntington school administrators to give more specific details on what they have alleged were inaccuracies in the New York Times Magazine piece as well as what steps the district has taken internally to prevent a similar situation from occurring again.

“What internal investigation has taken place to figure out what went wrong and to identify what needs to change?” he asked. “What changes if any have unilaterally been put in place by the school to prevent children from being labeled as gang associated and to provide a process for families to be aware of that and challenge it if it indeed happens. “

Jennifer Hebert, president of Huntington’s board of education, reacted only to tell Dubnau that it was “not the forum to address this.” The board does have a policy of not responding to speaker’s questions during its public comment period. However, no trustee chose to address the issue during a time set aside for closing remarks by board members.

The next Huntington BOE regular business meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. March 25 at Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School.

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Suffolk County police are searching for men who allegedly shoplifted from a Setauket Kohl's. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department
Police are searching for suspects in a shoplifting case who fled in the white car shown above. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and 6th Precinct Crime Section officers are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate the men who allegedly stole items from a Setauket store last month.

Two men allegedly stole clothing from Kohl’s, located at 5000 Nesconset Highway, Jan. 5, at approximately 8 p.m. The men fled the store in a white vehicle being driven by another man.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS, texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637) or by email at www.tipsubmit.com. All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.