By Kimberly Brown
Concerned Suffolk County residents were able to voice their opinions on new reforms they believe the police department should enact at a virtual Suffolk County Police Reform & Reinvention Task Force public listening session for the 4th Precinct last month. The task force is used to address the needs of the community and any racial bias happening within the department.
Multiple speakers began their speeches by calling attention to the absence of Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini (D) and County Executive Steve Bellone (D). A member of the Suffolk County Democratic Socialists of America expressed his frustrations concerning the nonattendance of the two key public servants in the county government.
“If they were truly committed to the process, they would take the time to be here,” the DSA member said. “Their continued absence is a slap in the face to everyone who is taking their time to speak tonight, and who has spoken in past meetings.”
Many attended the meeting with the goal of sharing ideas for accountability measures that should be enacted in the police department. A member of the LI United to Transform Policing and Community Safety discussed her thoughts on the issue in hopes to achieve a change in their process.
The passage of a right-to-know act was one recommendation a member discussed. This would require officers to distribute a card with their information printed on it when pulling over any resident.
“Oftentimes when stopped by police, the public gets little to no information about who is stopping you, and sometimes they’re not even told why,” the LI United member said.
“Having officers hand out a card with their name, badge number and reason for the stop will provide a new level of transparency.”
Other speakers think the police department has not showcased a racial bias against communities of color, and feel the department has been disrespected as a whole by various Suffolk residents.
“We need to talk about how to have a culture change, where parents teach children the cops are not the enemy, the cops are there to help you,” a speaker said. “Show them respect, they have a very difficult job because they don’t know if the call they go on is going to be their last.”
However, another Suffolk County resident disagreed with this statement, saying it is an entitled position to believe that concern over a job is equivalent to or supersedes the value of Black lives. He articulated those police officers have the choice to quit their job if they don’t want to be held accountable for any mishaps.
“There is no such thing as a blue life,” he said. “It is a job. They can quit and go home. I can’t quit being Black, nor do I want to.”
The task force continued to hold its virtual meetings until Dec. 21. Community members said they felt the reform discussions were helpful. For more details, visit the task force website at suffolkcountyny.gov/police-reform.
Editor’s note: Many speakers did not say their name before speaking during the Zoom meeting.