By Harry To
Suffolk County Legislator Sam Gonzalez (D-Brentwood) was the lone vote against the reform plan for the Suffolk County Police Department. The reform plan passed 16-1 in the county Legislature earlier this month.
“The passage of this plan today is truly a historic moment in Suffolk County, and I am grateful to all those who came to the table and everyone who took part in the reform process to tackle the toughest of challenges,” said County Executive Steve Bellone (D) in a press release.
In a statement, Gonzalez said that he voted “no” on the reform plan because independent oversight of police conduct was not included, leaving the plan “insufficient.”
“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,” 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.”
Progressive groups across the country have advocated for police reform.
Indeed, many Long Island advocates share Gonzalez’s gripes with current reform plans. As a result, they drew up “The People’s Plan,” which includes civilian oversight for police misconduct and the creation of unarmed traffic enforcement.
“The plan that was released by Suffolk County in response to Governor Cuomo’s (D) executive order falls short of the transformative changes to the way we conceive of public safety that this moment in our community members are demanding,” said Jackie Burbridge, co-founder of the Long Island Black Alliance.
On the other side of the aisle, state Republicans attacked the reform bill for different reasons. Some cited the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes as a reason for opposing the reforms, such as state Sen. Alexis Weik (R-Sayville).
“One-party control in Albany has led to laws that have immediately released violent criminals, the repeal of 50-a, and an overall disdain for the men and women of law enforcement,” she said in a press release. “In light of the rising violence we see day in and day out on the news, particularly recent acts of violence against the Asian American community, we must shift course to a focus on restoring safety and accountability to the policies coming out of Albany.”
Still, the 1,000-page Suffolk County Police Reform and Reinvention Task Force Report received overwhelming bipartisan support from county legislators March 30.