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Suffolk County Police Department

File photo

When Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced the 30-member police reform task force last Wednesday, Sept. 9, there was not much in the way of fanfare for what should be a big moment for the general police reform movement.

Like the sound of a flat trumpet announcing the arrival of the king, it did not create any kinds of sensation other than pursed lips and a general groan from the community at large.

The news has left people on both entrenched sides of the police debate uncomfortable. One side probably thinks it is a dangerous waste of time, the other believes it to be an attempt at lip service, one piloted by the same people advocates accused of sustaining bad practices within departments.

The muted and sometimes hostile response to the new task force is likely due to how long it took the county to actually release its own plans. It has been over three months since Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) released his first executive order mandating that the government actually looks into this. Police reform advocates have hounded his heels since then but the county exec stood mum. Perhaps he, like others, was confused by what the county should have been doing to prepare for what is likely seen as another unfunded mandate from New York State.

But this is bigger than that, or at least, it should be. Bellone and other police officials should have been upfront about what they were going to do and how they would do it. At least then they wouldn’t have been in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation as they are now. Especially because without a plan, Cuomo has promised municipalities’ police departments could lose state funding.

Suffolk County police officials throughout the entirety of the police debate have touted recent advancements in anti-bias training and department reform that was happening even before Minneapolis man George Floyd was killed at the hands of police.

And to say there haven’t been significant efforts would be a disservice to the several notable people within the police department who have strived to increase inclusivity and enact change for the better. Most times, however, it’s better to let the people themselves tell you if that change has been enough, rather than just sitting in the echo chamber that is bureaucracy.

The 30-person task force is effectively evenly split between Suffolk County officials/police reps and other religious, racial and community groups. This disparate set of characters plans to hold eight meetings, one for each precinct plus the East End, then using another large survey the county has announced alongside the task force, craft some sort of policy plan.

The Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association will of course advocate for no changes to police budgets or personnel. Their leadership has been staunch supporters of Blue Lives Matter rallies and have routinely decried any and all Black Lives Matter protests, even though in the county the vast majority have been peaceful and civil. That’s not to say police don’t have the right to speak up for themselves. We know just how much work goes into serving a community as an officer — from the holidays not spent with families to the danger they put themselves in every day. But we need to listen to communities, especially the large communities of color, for whether they feel police actually treat them the way many of us on the North Shore feel we are positively reflected.

We at TBR News Media think there should be a minority report, or potentially multiple minority reports, to go along with whatever result gets crafted before the governor’s April 2021 deadline. That way we can see what was left on the cutting room floor and, more importantly, how either police reps or reform advocates feel things should be done if they had their way.

It’s time to stop thinking of this task force as an afterthought and move toward some consensus that leads to real change.

Photo from Councilman LaValle's office
Photo from Councilman LaValle’s office

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (third from left) joined representatives of the Selden Civic Association the Suffolk County Police Department for the grand opening celebration of Texas Roadhouse in Selden on Sept. 1. The councilman presented the staff with a Certificate of Congratulations and wished them many years of success.

Construction began last fall at the former location of Ruby Tuesdays at 289 Middle Country Road at the corner of Route 83 in the Selden Plaza shopping center. The steakhouse is the third Texas Roadhouse on Long Island, joining the East Meadow and Deer Park eateries famous for its hand-cut steaks, ribs, freshly baked bread, made-from-scratch sides, bottomless peanuts and 15 different varieties of margaritas.

The 7,163 square-foot space is open Mondays to Thursdays from 3 to 10 p.m., Fridays from 3 to 11 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. For more information, call 631-496-3073 or visit www.texasroadhouse.com.

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Suffolk County police car. File photo

Suffolk County Police 4th Squad detectives are investigating a single-vehicle crash that seriously injured a woman in Kings Park Aug. 8.

Vincent La Rose was driving a 2006 Ford Mustang eastbound on Fort Salonga Road near the intersection of the Sunken Meadow Parkway when he swerved to avoid another vehicle that made a U-turn in front of him. La Rose lost control of the vehicle before it rolled over several times, striking a utility pole at approximately 2:25 p.m.

Dawn La Rose, 59, of Kings Park, a passenger in the vehicle, was seriously injured and transported via Suffolk County Police helicopter to Stony Brook University Hospital. Vincent La Rose, 63, of Kings Park, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital with minor injuries.

The Ford was impounded for a safety check. Anyone with information is asked to call the 4th squad at 631-854-8452.

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Suffolk County police car. File photo

Suffolk County Police arrested two men on drugs and weapons charges following a disturbance at a convenience store in Commack last night.

Fourth Precinct police officers responded to a report of a disturbance at 7-Eleven, located at 362 Veterans Memorial Highway, June 23 at approximately 9:45 p.m. During the disturbance, Robert Sperduti allegedly displayed a handgun to the cashier. Upon police arrival, Sperduti allegedly attempted to flee but was apprehended a short time later.

Police officers also apprehended Robert Cano, who was allegedly found to be in possession of Xanax without a prescription. Following an investigation, it was determined that Cano sold the gun to Sperduti.

Sperduti, 22, of Huntington, was arrested and charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the 2nd and 3rd degree and menacing. Cano, 19, of Smithtown, was arrested and charged with criminal sale of a firearm and criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Sperduti and Cano are scheduled for arraignment at First District Court in Central Islip today.

The Suffolk County Police Department received a 911 call at approximately 7:20 a.m. June 22 regarding an adult man hanging in the woods in Peter A. Nelson Park on Oakwood Road in West Hills.

According to SCPD, the death is being preliminarily classified as a non-criminal suicide based on evidence at the scene and at the male’s residence which includes a letter to his family with his reasons for his actions.

An autopsy will be performed by the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner, and the family has requested that their identity, as well as the identity of the deceased, be withheld to protect their privacy.

“As a matter of policy, the Suffolk County Police Department does not normally comment on non-criminal death investigations,” a statement read. “The department investigates approximately 100 suicides annually. However, we are aware of unfortunate rumors circulating on social media and throughout the community regarding this investigation, and believe that it is in the public’s interest to issue this statement to allay any fears and quell rumors with facts.”

News of the man found hanging in Huntington spread through social media. There has been a rash of black men found hanging from trees in multiple states including California, Georgia, Oregon, Texas and New York just within the past few weeks. Police and other authorities have named all of those cases suicides, but members of the Black community have largely been skeptical, noting the long history of lynchings in America.

This post will be updated if more information becomes available.

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File photo

Suffolk County Police Fourth Precinct officers May 8 arrested a Hauppauge man after he allegedly crashed into two police vehicles while fleeing police officers who were investigating him for a prior robbery.

Fourth Squad Special Operations detectives were heading to Rose Court in Hauppauge to conduct surveillance on the home of Theodore Martinez at approximately 4:45 p.m. Martinez, who was a suspect in a prior robbery, recognized the detectives as he was driving past them in a 2012 Volkswagen sedan and allegedly sped away. A few minutes later, Martinez’s car struck a marked police vehicle at Old Nichols Road near Motor Parkway, then fled the scene.

Police officers in the marked vehicle initiated a pursuit, but terminated the pursuit when the suspect entered a residential area in Hauppauge. Moments later, while police were canvassing the area, the suspect struck an unmarked detective vehicle with the Volkswagen, then allegedly fled that scene.

As Martinez was fleeing, he crashed the Volkswagen into the original marked vehicle on Wheeler Road, north of the North Service Road in Hauppauge, where he was arrested and taken into custody at 4:51 p.m.

Martinez, 32, was charged with robbery, two counts of criminal mischief, two counts of assault, criminal possession of a controlled substance, reckless driving, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, and unlawful fleeing. The suspect’s mother, Loretta Martines, 57, who was a passenger in the vehicle, was also arrested and charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance.

A police officer and a detective sustained minor injuries during the incident.

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File photo

Suffolk County Police have arrested a Medford man after he allegedly assaulted a woman and barricaded himself in a Kings Park house for approximately 8 hours April 26.

Mark Reyes entered the home of a female acquaintance, located on Clover Lane, the evening of April 25 and allegedly held the woman against her will overnight. The 33-year-old woman was assaulted and sustained knife-wounds in the incident. She escaped the house at approximately 9:30 a.m. Sunday and was taken to an area hospital for treatment of serious but non-life threatening injures. Two children who were in the house at the time of the incident were unharmed.

Reyes fled the house on foot and kicked in the back door of a nearby house, located at Rumford Road, at approximately 9:35 a.m. Sunday.

A good Samaritan saw Reyes enter the home on Rumford Road and called 911. Suffolk County Police Emergency Service Section officers and members of the hostage negotiation team responded to the scene. Emergency Service Section officers were able to enter the home and bring a 77-year-old female resident to safety while Reyes barricaded himself in an upstairs bathroom. The woman was uninjured.

At approximately 5:45 p.m., Emergency Service Section officers re-entered the home and removed Reyes from the house. Reyes, who had a self-inflicted knife wound, was transported to an area hospital for treatment of serious but not life-threatening injuries.

Reyes, 51, is being charged with criminal mischief, criminal obstruction of breathing, two counts of unlawful imprisonment, assault in the first degree, aggravated criminal contempt, two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, criminal trespassing in the second degree, and criminal mischief in the third degree. Other charges may be pending. He will be arraigned on a later date.

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Selina Elswick, left, was scheduled to return her 3-year-old son, Damian Sollas, to Suffolk County Family Court in Central Islip Jan. 22 and failed to appear. Photo from SCPD

*Update*

Following a police investigation, Damian Sollas was located unharmed in Huntington Station. Police said he will be released to the custody of Child Protective Services.

Original Story

Suffolk County Police 4th Squad detectives are seeking the public’s help to locate a child who was reported missing after his mother failed to surrender custody to Child Protective Services earlier this month.

Selina Elswick was scheduled to return her three-year-old son, Damian Sollas, to Suffolk County Family Court in Central Islip Jan. 22 and failed to appear. When representatives from CPS attempted to take custody of the child at their residence in Commack Jan. 22 it was discovered that the two had moved out of the residence Jan. 16. CPS then contacted the Suffolk County Police Department to report the child missing.

Elswick, 32, is white, 5 feet 6 inches tall, approximately 150 pounds with red hair and brown eyes. Sollas is white, approximately 40 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. The two may be in the company of the child’s father, Thomas Sollas, 43, and may be traveling in a box truck with Light House Electric written on the side.

 

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.