By Chris Cumella
Concerned members of the community discussed police reform and transparency at last month’s virtual Suffolk County Police Reform & Reinvention Task Force public listening session for the 2nd Precinct.
The conference was held as an ongoing series for public outreach and communication with the county community, as a direct way to connect with citizens based on police affairs – both current and future.
“We are looking at recruiting and supporting excellent personnel,” said Deputy County Executive Vanessa Baird-Streeter, as she listed various factors that the task force stands for, including “recruiting a diverse workforce, training and continuing education, and supporting officer wellness and wellbeing.”
The conference included a section for residents to address questions and concerns to the board regarding the police force interacting with the community. Many of the statements discussed unnecessary police force against racial minority groups and those persons with intellectual disabilities.
During the conference, one individual identified as Speaker 8 said, “I’m appalled that this country has continued to discriminate. We are seeing what is going on with the police — we are not happy. The treatment is not equal, and it is not how this should work.”
The citizen input session proceded for over two hours, with 19 county residents addressing the various racial discrimination methods or inequity that they have personally witnessed from the SCPD in the last year.
Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart called the forum “powerful.” It reinforced the idea that policing is about identifying problems in the county and working to fix them in cooperation with those in Suffolk.
Speaking about how the police force approaches those with intellectual disabilities, Hart acknowledged that there had been “a failure in the system” for how those citizens are treated.
The task force has its own website at suffolkcountyny.gov/police-reform, including information on all members of the task force as well as statistics and resources of the police department. Baird-Streeter said that doing so was a means of ensuring that the public would have access to the information. The public listening sessions are now completed.
For his closing statement, Jon Kaiman, deputy county executive and task force co-facilitator, said that the task force and Suffolk county police were becoming more engaged because of residents’ input.
“The leadership of this department is committed to listening to all of you, as well as your stories and your suggestions that you’ve had — positive or negative,” Kaiman said.