Suffolk County Republicans assembled at the Legislature building last week to call for a federal monitor to oversee our county police department. They argued that a recent indictment of former Police Chief James Burke was a tipping point, proving that county government could not be trusted to operate independently without supervision. They also cited County Executive Steve Bellone’s appointment of Tim Sini to replace Burke as key evidence supporting their pleas, accusing him of not having enough experience to do the job at the level the county needs.
We don’t disagree with the Suffolk County GOP in saying that the federal government should consider monitoring the county’s police department to make sure it is adequately protecting us and that the taxpayer dollars funding it are being well spent. There should be a monitor — but not solely for the reasons our Republican lawmakers have outlined. There are plenty of other issues concerning the Suffolk County Police Department that a federal monitor could help alleviate.
For starters, we have editorialized in the past about the department’s ongoing relationship woes with the greater Hispanic community, which has had a public spotlight for the last several years. The department has taken some steps to address this issue, but a lot more can be done.
A federal monitor could also make sure our department utilizes its resources appropriately at a time when many elected officials argue that patrols are being stretched too thin and officers are overworked. Better management of resources could also mean better enforcement of the county’s gang population and fight against drug abuse.
As much as we might cringe at the idea of “more government” — especially on the federal level — it would be better than nothing.