Curran files 395-page police reform plan with County Legislature

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Nassau County Executive Laura Curran filed the county's plan to reform the police department with the legislature last week. (Photo courtesy of the county executive's office)

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran has filed a plan for police reform that calls for increased efforts for diversity in staffing and recruitment and more transparency on officers’ interactions with Nassau residents.

The plan, nearly 400 pages long, was submitted in accordance with an executive order that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed in mid-June, in the wake of George Floyd’s death, that requires each police agency to conduct a plan to “reinvent and modernize police strategies” by April 1, when the state’s next fiscal year begins.

Included in the proposal, which Curran filed with the County Legislature last week, is a plan for heightened accountability in the county Police Department.

“As we move forward and build on our current efforts to reform policing, we welcome additional input into this living document,” Curran said. “I remain committed to building that trust in our communities. I look forward to moving ahead with a community policing effort that meets the needs of all our residents.”

Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said the department will implement 86 of the 90 recommendations community stakeholders made along with the 23 changes the department made on its own.

“The police department will continue to serve our residents in the most professional manner as we have done since our inception over 95 years ago,” Ryder said in a statement.

Efforts to reach a member of the Legislature for comment were unavailing.

According to the plan, it is anticipated that the Police Department will implement a body camera program this year and will review “best practices” to put forward a program mutually beneficial for officers and the community. The plan noted that the county has not yet chosen a vendor to provide the cameras and the Police Department remains in talks with other law enforcement agencies to gain more insight on how to roll out a program.

Body cameras have also been the topic of discussion as members of the Police Benevolent Association rejected a tentative contract that would provide officers a $3,000 annual stipend to wear the cameras, according to Newsday. The $3,000 stipend, according to Newsday, would be awarded annually, but put into the base pay of each officer at the conclusion of the contract. 

Also featured in the plan were recommendations from two community-based organizations Curran established, the Police and Community Trust initiative and the Community Collaborative Task Force.

The Police and Community Trust initiative recommended that Nassau police officers should not be paid to wear body cameras, and the Police Department responded that the recommendation was considered and noted that “any wages are subject to collective bargaining.”

Shanequa Levin of Long Island United to Transform Policing & Community Safety said community stakeholders do not see the $3,000 stipend to wear body cameras as a sufficient measure of reform in the Police Department.

“There should be real, structural changes [to the police], and I’m not just talking about damn body cameras where they’re going to get a stipend to wear them,” Levin said. “I’m talking about real change, like how ticketing can be handled differently, how we handle mental health cases differently, how we handle drug cases differently. I’m talking about reducing the footprint of the police in our streets.”

The plan also states that all sworn and civilian members of the Police Department are required to take part in a yearly online anti-bias training course followed by “an exam exhibiting their understanding.” Bias incidents and hate crimes, and use of force reports will also be made public as well.

The plan’s accountability approach featured the department using the Law Enforcement Misconduct Investigative Office in the state attorney general’s office. Curran also noted the department will continue to use the newly established Nassau County crime victim advocate, an office tasked with aiding victims and witnesses of violent crimes. Curran signed the legislation in December 2019. The county’s 24/7 complaint hotline is also a resource for residents to use as well, according to the plan.

Nassau County civil rights attorney Frederick Brewington and Long Island Regional NAACP Director Tracey Edwards, who have been active in the call for racial justice in the county, said they submitted their own police reform plan deemed “The People’s Plan,” according to Newsday.

The activists’ plan includes redirecting funds from school resource officers to develop youth programming, collecting and publishing racial and ethnic data from vehicle stops, and creating an office of police inspector general.

The plan also calls for creating a new emergency call system which allows mental health providers and unarmed crisis responders to be included on certain crisis calls and the creation of a county task force to monitor the safety and enforcement of state-mandated reforms.

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