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Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office

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The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office held a swearing in ceremony for 30 new Correction Officer Recruits on Monday, May 13, 2024, at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Yaphank. These new Correction Officer Recruits immediately began a rigorous four-month training program that includes instruction in direct supervision, de-escalation techniques, report writing, defensive tactics, firearms, and much more. The recruits will graduate in the fall, joining a force currently consisting of 836 Suffolk County Correction Officers.  

This class of 30 Correction Officer Recruits includes 26 male recruits and four females among which six are Black and three are Hispanic. There is one Veteran, two recruits with prior law enforcement, nine recruits with Bachelor’s degrees, and five with Associate degrees. 

Sheriff Toulon welcomed these new Correction Officers to the Sheriff’s Office, reminding them that they “now hold a position of authority in Suffolk County, and with that authority comes great responsibility.”  

For more information on the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Division, please visit www.suffolksheriff.com.  


Scenes from the Suffolk County Sheriff Office's annual Open House and Family Day. Photo by Bill Landon

Fighting the weekend weather for months, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, after having to cancel the event in September, was able to reschedule its annual Open House and Family Day Sunday, Oct. 22, at the Yaphank Correctional Facility, which was met with bright sunny skies. 

Thousands attended the event with demonstrations by the Emergency Response Team, K9 unit and troop carrier rides. Sheriff’s Office vehicles were on display along with its marine division as well as personnel carriers. 

The event featured horses from Warrior Ranch in Calverton, Operation Safe Child, senior and pet ID cards, tug-of-war, bounce house fun, food trucks, music, as well as games for kids of all ages.

Photos by Bill Landon

Caption: Free Car Seat Inspections will be held on Thursday, Sept. 21, and Saturday, Sept. 23.

Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Daniel Losquadro is announcing two free child safety seat check events to be held on Thursday, Sept. 21, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and Saturday, Sept. 23, from 8 a.m. to noon, at Safety Town, 249 Buckley Road in Holtsville. The events are being held during the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Child Passenger Safety Week (Sept. 17-23, 2023). In addition, the Brookhaven Highway Department Traffic Safety Division will be hosting a technician child safety seat certification class next week.

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, along with certified technicians from the Brookhaven Highway Department, will be on hand to inspect car seats and make sure children are riding in the right car seats for their age and size as they grow.

“Car crashes are a leading cause of death for children,” said Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Daniel Losquadro. “Many parents and caregivers believe they know how to use the correct child restraints for their children, but these restraints are frequently used incorrectly. I am happy to provide these free car seat inspections to teach parents and caregivers how to identify, choose and correctly install the right car seat for their child’s age and size.”

The Child Safety Seat Checks are funded, in part, by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with a grant from the New York State Governors Traffic Safety Committee. Inspections are by appointment only; call 631-451-5335 to reserve your spot.

Emma Clark Library, 120 Main St., Setauket presents a Shed the Meds event on Tuesday, Aug. 8 from 4 to 7 p.m. The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office hosts this safe way to properly dispose of unused medications. Proper disposal is essential to protect the environment and ensure that old drugs don’t end up in the wrong hands. Please note: The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office cannot accept any liquids, needles, creams, or ointments of any kind. They are only accepting unused or expired medications from individuals (not large quantities from a doctor’s office or health care facility). Questions? Email [email protected]

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon, second from left, with the family of Andrew McMorris, a Boy Scout fatally killed by a drunk driver in 2018. Photo courtesy Toulon's office

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon (D) recently joined roadway safety advocates to announce a summer campaign targeting drunk driving.

Beginning during the July 4 holiday weekend, Toulon’s Office will increase DWI patrols and checkpoints from Huntington to the East End, continuing these measures throughout the summer in an effort to keep Suffolk’s roadways safe. According to the Sheriff’s Office, its DWI team has already had record-high impaired driving arrests this year, with a nearly 40% increase in DWI/DUI arrests from 2022.

Coined “Operation H.E.A.T.,” the initiative aims to ramp up already heightened efforts to mitigate these increases.  

“The ‘heat’ is on this summer for drunk and drugged drivers in Suffolk County,” Toulon said during a press event Thursday, June 29. “Our deputy sheriffs will be out in full force patrolling the roadways with an eye out for impaired drivers. If you don’t drive sober, you will be pulled over.” 

Joining Toulon was the family of Andrew McMorris, a 12-year-old Boy Scout who was fatally hit by a drunk driver in 2018 while hiking with his Scout troop. The driver in that crash was found guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide and sentenced to 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison.

“The Andrew McMorris Foundation asks everyone this summer and always to please make a promise to never drink and drive,” said Alisa and John McMorris of the Andrew McMorris Foundation. “Call a cab, call a friend, save a life, start a trend. You don’t have to be a superhero to save someone’s life. Just take the keys.”

Paige Carbone, regional executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, also attended the meeting. She offered her support for the department initiative, emphasizing the need for stricter enforcement.

“Summer is one of the deadliest times of the year on our highways,” she said. “MADD supports Operation H.E.A.T. and will join the efforts by providing staff and volunteers to participate in checkpoints across the county this summer.” 

The regional director added, “Our mission is to end drunk driving, and MADD encourages alternatives, such as designating a non-drinking driver, rideshares and using public transportation. That can prevent these crimes from happening.”

Toulon also offered these tips:

  • If you are hosting a party, designate a sober driver or arrange alternate transportation to ensure guests get home safely.
  • If you’ve been drinking and don’t have a designated driver, ask a sober friend for a ride home, call a taxi or rideshare service or stay for the night. 
  • Take the keys from a friend if you think they are about to drive while impaired. 

For more information on the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, please visit www.suffolksheriff.com.

If you are buying holiday gifts through an online marketplace or selling items online to earn some extra cash this holiday season, Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon, Jr. wants to remind you of a safe place to meet up with your neighbors to complete these transactions.

To help protect citizens from theft and assault often associated with online transactions, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office created two Safe Transaction Zones designed to safeguard residents from various crimes
associated with social media marketplace buying and selling. The safe transaction zones are located at the Sheriff’s Office at 100 Center Drive in Riverhead, and at the Yaphank Facility at 202 Glover Drive. Both are clearly marked with red and white signs and are in full view of on-duty Deputy Sheriffs.

Residents are encouraged to use the marked areas as a place to meet for in-person exchanges of online
purchases. Please note, Sheriff’s deputies will not participate in the exchanges or act as official witnesses in transactions. Most purchase agreements and transactions are civil matters. However, with deputies nearby, the area will be safer for buyers and sellers. Residents are encouraged to use the area during daylight hours and will not have to schedule an appointment with the Sheriff’s Office.

Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind when conducting such transactions:

• Do not go to a transaction alone
• Make sure a friend or family member is aware of the transaction details
• Insist on meeting in a public area like the Sheriff’s Office’s safe transaction zones
• Do not go into someone else’s house, and do not allow them into yours
• Complete the transaction during daylight hours
• Be extra cautious when buying or selling valuable items such as vehicles and jewelry
• Only use cash or money orders to complete your transactions
• Trust your instincts, if it sounds like a scam it probably is
• If someone is not willing to come to the Sheriff’s Office to do a transaction it is probably not a legitimate transaction. 



Pixabay photo

The recent ransomware attack against the Suffolk County government has raised important questions about the relationship between citizens, governments and technologies.

A confirmed ransomware event took place in early September. The hack crippled the county’s information technology infrastructure, and recovery efforts remain ongoing. 

In the wake of these events, the hack prompted critics to question the digitization of sensitive information and how governments can better secure their IT networks.

What is ransomware?

Nick Nikiforakis is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at Stony Brook University. His research focuses on web security and privacy. In an interview, he described how ransomware works.

“Ransomware is, effectively, malicious software that infiltrates a machine, starts encrypting all sorts of private documents, spreadsheets, anything that is of value, and then leaks out to the attacker the encryption key and potentially the data that was encrypted,” he said. 

Some forms of ransomware affect only a single machine, according to Nikiforakis. Other strains may spread into several devices, potentially infecting an entire network.

Ransomware is the confirmed vector of attack for Suffolk County. However, how hackers first entered the county’s system is unknown to the public. 

While the details of the county hack are scanty, Nikiforakis said cyberattackers commonly use emails with malicious attachments. In other instances, they can locate vulnerable software within a network, exploit that weakness and breach that system. Once hackers gain access to the system, they hold sensitive information for ransom. 

“The original idea behind ransomware is that if you don’t pay the attacker the money that they ask, then you lose access to your data,” Nikiforakis said. 

Backup software was developed, in part, to mitigate this concern. Regardless, as technologies have evolved, so has cybercrime. 

“Even if you have the ability to restore your data from backups, now you have to deal with the attacker having access to your data and threatening you with making that data public, which is what’s happening in this case,” Nikiforakis said.

Based on the information available, Nikiforakis said the attackers likely gained access to speeding tickets and various titles, among other sensitive materials. “This is definitely a cause for concern, and that is why, in certain cases, people decide to pay, to avoid this blowback that will come from the data being made publicly available.”

A question of payment

Ransomware raises an ethical dilemma for government officials, namely whether to use public funds to pay a ransom.

“People can take a philosophical approach and say, ‘We don’t negotiate with terrorists,’ and I understand that,” Nikiforakis said, “But then the rational thing for the attacker to do is to make that data available to the public. Because if he doesn’t, then the next victim will also not pay him.” 

The profitability of the ransomware operation depends upon the victim trusting that the criminals will comply with the conditions of the transaction. The ransomware business model would fail if cyberattackers generally went against their word.

For this reason, Nikiforakis said payment and compliance could sometimes be in the interests of both parties. 

“I think it’s a very rational decision to say, ‘Let’s pay and accept this as a financial loss and let’s make sure that this doesn’t happen again,’” he said.

In Suffolk County, however, putting this theoretical framework into action is more complicated. Responsibility for paying ransomware payments would be vested in the Office of the Comptroller, which oversees the county’s finances. 

During an election interview last month with county Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R), he hinted that compromising with cybercriminals is off the table.

“There is no predicate in the charter, in the New York State County Law, in the Suffolk County code, to take taxpayer money and give it to a criminal,” he said.

‘Technology is moving so quickly that it is incredibly challenging for government to keep up.’ 

— Sarah Anker

The effect on the county’s government operations

The ransomware attack has also aggravated concerns over securing the county’s IT apparatus. Kennedy likened the problem to a fire code, saying fire codes often include provisions for masonry walls and other buffers that reduce the spread of a fire.

“If a fire starts, it doesn’t take down the whole complex. It stops at the masonry wall,” he said. “Our system was not configured with those hard breaks, other than some separation of function out in Riverhead in the County Clerk’s Office.” 

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), whose office was attacked by ransomware in 2017, has advocated for serious IT reform for some time. She followed the county’s technology closely and expressed frustration over how the initial attack occurred.

“I could tell, and I could feel, that there needed to be more done,” she said. “It has hampered the government, it has affected our constituents. Maybe it could have been worse, but it should have never happened.”

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D) explained his office’s many challenges since the hack. Though communications systems are slowly returning online, the initial attack disrupted both external and internal communications within the Sheriff’s Office.

“From a jail and police perspective, it really hindered us in the beginning,” he said. “Emails that we received from other law enforcement agencies or any communication with our community was stopped for a significant amount of time.”

New York State’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency assisted the Sheriff’s Office as Toulon’s staff worked without an operational communication network. Because of this coordination, Toulon maintained that the functions of the jails were more or less appropriately executed.

“We wanted to make sure that any individual that was supposed to be released from our custody was released on time,” the county sheriff said. “No one was incarcerated longer than they had to be.” 

Preparing for the future

Toulon suggested the existing IT network is too centralized and interconnected. To prevent future failure of the entire network, he proposed creating separate silos for each department.

“I feel that the District Attorney’s Office, the Sheriff’s Office, the [County] Clerk’s Office and the Comptroller’s Office should be totally separate from the County Executive’s Office,” Toulon said, “So if, god forbid, this were to happen again in the future, we wouldn’t be directly impacted like everyone else.”

Anker said she and a newly formed panel of county legislators are beginning to explore ways to harden the network and apply strategies that work elsewhere.

“As we move forward, we need to see what the other municipalities and corporations are doing,” she said. “What types of programs and software do they have that prevent these attacks?”

The rate of software development, according to Anker, is outpacing the ability of governments to respond effectively. While IT departments must remain ahead of the cybercriminals to keep their digital infrastructure safe, staying out front is easier said than done.

“Technology is moving so quickly that it is incredibly challenging for government to keep up,” she said. “I would like to see more accountability in all respects and from everyone as we move forward with new technology.”

While the recent cyberattack focuses on the government, Anker believes ordinary citizens are also at risk from hostile online actors. The county legislator contended more work should be done to alert community members of these dangers.

“Not enough is being done regarding community outreach,” she said. “There needs to be more education on preventing an attack even on your home computer.”

Nikiforakis proposed that greater attention be given to digitizing personal records. According to him, those records in the wrong hands could unleash great harm. 

“Ransomware was a big game-changer for attackers because it allows them to monetize data that would not be traditionally monetizable,” he said. “Through ransomware, suddenly everything that is of value can be monetized.”

The SBU associate professor supports software upgrades, cybersecurity protocols and other measures that protect against ransomware. But, he said, a broader conversation needs to take place about the nature of digitization and whether individuals and governments should store sensitive files online.

“More and more things that didn’t used to be online are suddenly available online,” he said. “We have to reassess the eagerness with which we put everything online and see whether the convenience that we get out of these systems being online is a good return on investment, given the risks.”

By Aidan Johnson

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office and the Town of Brookhaven once again held their National Night Out event at the Fireman’s Memorial Park in Ridge.

National Night Out, an annual tradition that takes place on the first Tuesday in August, is a nationwide event that police officers participate in to raise awareness about police programs in their communities.

The Brookhaven National Night Out, the largest of its kind on the East End, opened by playing the national anthem. As hundreds of families arrived, multiple activities were being held, including tug of war, bingo and an ice cream truck that gave away free vanilla and chocolate swirls.

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr., above. Photo by Aidan Johnson

“People always know what the police department does, but sometimes people don’t know what the Sheriff’s Office does, so we have our trucks here,” said Sgt. Paul Spinella of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office. “We have our deputies here showing all the different aspects that the Sheriff’s Office is involved in, and hopefully meeting some community members.”

Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. was also on hand during the event. He spoke of the progress that his office has made in bolstering community turnout and educating the public about services offered through his office.

“The way that our National Night Out has grown from almost 250 people at the first one four years ago to now expecting over 3000 people today shows that not only are we having a positive impact on our community, but our community wants to learn more about us,” Toulon said.

The sheriff also highlighted the steps that he and his office have undertaken to build trust with the broader public.

“I think there’s pretty much a symbiotic relationship between the community and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office,” he said, adding, “I think that members of the community in Suffolk County are extremely supportive of the law enforcement community, which we are very appreciative of. We want to keep our communities safe so that each and every person can live and do the things that they freely want to do.”

One of Toulon’s goals is to establish a closer relationship between children and the police. According to him, law enforcement can offer the necessary guidance to keep children away from bad influences and motivate them to contribute to their community. 

“Our goal is to really make sure that we can keep young kids on the straight and narrow path so that we can show them the positive thing to do,” he said. “Since I’ve become the sheriff, I’ve been in one to two schools per week talking to students about bullying, vaping, opioids and drugs.”

Toulon added that one of his achievements as sheriff has been bringing programs from the Sandy Hook Promise organization to all Suffolk County schools. The organization, which was started by Mark Barden and Nicole Hockley, who lost their children in the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, aims to empower kids and adults to prevent violence in schools and their communities.

“We have taught over 30,000 faculty, teachers and students with the programs — the Start with Hello and the Say Something programs,” Toulon said. “We also engage with our middle school students with the gang resistance education and training program. We try to deter kids from engaging in any type of gang activity. We really try to really make sure that our kids are making good choices.”

While many deputies were present during the night, becoming one is no easy task. One deputy shared some of the requirements, including tests, physicals and orientations.

“It’s actually a very long process to become a deputy,” she said. “Honestly, I think it takes about a year.”

Among all of the booths set up was one for the organization New Hour, a nonprofit founded to support women who are either currently or formerly incarcerated and their families. 

“We try to provide donations that include clothing, shoes, cosmetics, toiletries and any donation that we think a woman could benefit from once they’re released or once they have finished their term,” Anitria Blue, the community ambassador liaison for New Hour, said. 

One of New Hour’s major programs is referred to as Empowering Methods for Effective Reentry, Growth and Engagement, or EMERGE. It is a 15-week program that allows women to meet and learn about resources that may help them. The program helps these women become more involved with the criminal and social justice systems and helps them learn to advocate for others. 

While Blue felt slightly intimidated by the turnout of her former corrections officers during the event, she enjoyed the event nonetheless. 

Sgt. Paul Spinella of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office. Photo by Aidan Johnson

“I had good relationships with my officers during my 17 years of incarceration,” she said. “It took a while, but they got to know me, so when I see them, I actually see humanity.”

Toulon felt a strong sense of appreciation for everyone who worked for him. “When I look at the [people] who work for me, whether they are deputy sheriffs, correctional officers or civilians, I think that they are heroes because not too many people can do what they do,” the sheriff said. 

As the night went on, a feeling of community connectedness grew among everyone in attendance. “I think we want [people] to know that we’re just like them,” Spinella said. “We’re community members, too. We help the community, just like garbage men and post office [workers]. When they come up to us and ask us for help, we are there for them.”

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July 29 was a hot day as 30 dogs and their owners stopped by Paws of War in the Nesconset Shopping Center for an important mission. 

They were there for a free microchip and pet identification service event hosted by Paws of War, which trains and places support dogs with U.S. military veterans. The event was sponsored by the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. and Robert Misseri, president and founder of Paws of War, pictured right, were on hand to greet owners and pets.

For three hours, attendees took their dogs inside the Paws of War Mobile Veterinary Clinic to receive the microchips, which are implanted into their skin behind the shoulder blades. The size of a large grain of rice, microchip implants are radio frequency identification tags that provide a permanent form of identification and track a pet’s movements.

When an animal is lost, a microchip scanner can identify to whom a pet belongs. The sheriff’s office’s Lost Pet Network database can also track and locate lost pets when they are microchipped.

A lost pet can wind up in an animal shelter if an owner is not found. Approximately 10 million pets in this country are lost each year, according to the nonprofit American Humane Society’s website (humanesociety.org). The nonprofit also states that out of the lost pets in shelters with no ID tags or microchips, only 15 % of dogs and 2 % of cats are reunited with their owners.

Participants at the July 29 event received an ID card and were also able to receive free dog food, leashes, collars and more.

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office will sponsor two more free microchipping events for residents Aug. 11 outside the Yaphank Correctional Facility, 200 Glover Drive, and Sept. 17 in Patchogue, location still to be determined.

By Raymond Janis

It seemed like an ordinary morning in Port Jeff village.

A thick layer of fog hung above the harbor, leaving the smokestacks of the power plant only partially visible from Main Street. Traffic was normal, businesses were open to the public and pedestrians strolled through the blocks and public spaces as usual. 

Despite the relative calm of the village, the decks of a Port Jefferson ferry boat were anything but normal. From inside the boat, one could hear the shriek of a madman, the sporadic fire of blank rounds, and the scrambling of passengers as they hid for cover.

None of these scenes were real, however. These were drills carried out by the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office and part of a tactical defense education program for ferry staff and crew.

Crew members went through multiple rounds of these drills aboard the Port Jefferson-Bridgeport Ferry, Friday, May 13. The training services are designed to educate staff on proper threat mitigation techniques, instructing them how to disarm potentially dangerous individuals in the event of an emergency.

In one training scenario, two crew members successfully ambushed and disarmed the threat on board, above. Photo by Raymond Janis

James McGuire, company security officer and port captain at the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company, said the ferry company holds annual defensive training courses to keep staff properly informed and trained.

“We’re doing some security training here just to get our men ready for the upcoming summer season,” he said. “We like to do annual training and the Sheriff’s department is helping us out with that.” He added, “Basically, they’re helping our crew learn defense tactics for potentially unruly passengers.”

Ultimately, if you can’t avoid or deny, then defend yourself. Do whatever you can to stop the threat.”

— Capt. Scott Walsh

Capt. Scott Walsh of the Sheriff’s Office summarized the department’s intent for these demonstrations. In the event of an active threat, crew members are advised to avoid, deny and defend.

“First, avoid if possible and get away from the threat,” he said, “Second, deny the threat access to you — if you’re in a room, then lock the door and do anything you can to deny the threat access.” He added, “Ultimately, if you can’t avoid or deny, then defend yourself. Do whatever you can to stop the threat.”

The guided training between the Sheriff’s Office and ferry personnel lasted over the span of two days. The first day included what the department calls a threat assessment, which included an evaluation of the boat’s layout to identify the proper training strategies. 

“We came here and did some walk-throughs of the ferry with staff to create a plan for any type of emergency scenario,” Walsh said. 

The second day included the tactical training demonstrations. During this program, the staff were guided by department representatives in a variety of formats.

Passengers were instructed to find cover and get to safety, above. Photo by Raymond Janis

“Beyond doing the scenarios and drills, they also did a classroom session with PowerPoints educating them on different types of response techniques,” said a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office. “We’re training everybody on the ferry from top to bottom, from the captain to the first officer, chief engineer and deck hands.” 

In one simulated threat scenario, a man in a hoodie fired blank rounds in the ferry cabin. Crew were instructed first to get any passengers to safety, then to disarm the threat. Hiding behind a locked door, the staff successfully ambushed and disarmed the target, neutralizing the threat on board. 

Andrew Elsalam, deckhand on the ferry, was part of the demonstration. He described his role in the training regimen.

“In this situation, we were instructed to be proactive, to fight and grab anything close to you, like extinguishers and anything that could subdue the target,” he said. “Another crew member and I were behind the door, and as the threat approached my co-worker grabbed the weapon as I grabbed and secured the target, making sure that he was no longer a threat.” 

Elsalam added that training services such as those offered by the Sheriff’s Office give him a sense of confidence when approaching his job. 

“I feel like it’s all about repetition and staying on top of it,” he said. “We do Tuesday drills, such as man overboard, fire emergency and abandoned ship drills. Maybe we can incorporate this into our drills and that way we can become proficient and prepared without having to think twice.”

These training services are available free of charge through the Sheriff’s Office. They are offered for institutions throughout the county that represent a significant public need.

“Sheriff [Errol] Toulon [D] has made it a priority for the Sheriff’s Office to interact and engage with the community,” Walsh said. “The ferry had reached out to us saying that they would like some active threat training, so we were happy to assist with that.”

To learn more about the various programs offered through the Sheriff’s Office, visit www.suffolkcountysheriffsoffice.com.