Nassau County plans to submit a final plan for police reform on Feb. 15, which will allow for six weeks of legislative activity before the plan is required to be submitted to the state on March 31, according to a letter from Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.
The plan for reform in the county’s Police Department follows an executive order Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed in mid-June 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.
Curran, in the letter to county legislative officials, said her office will continue to take community input into consideration.
“My office pledges to work with the Legislature to continue to gather public input permitted by the legislative process and to amend the plan, as may be requested by the Legislature,” Curran wrote. “Throughout the process, any updates to the plan will be posted on the County website.”
The Police Department made a 310-page draft plan available to the public on Jan. 7. A day later, more than a dozen members of various community advisory panels to provide the department with civilian input resigned. Former members said the draft plan did not address community concerns that it provide sufficient reform and reinvent the way policing is done throughout the county.
“What they engaged in was the worst kind of betrayal. The county misled its citizen volunteers into believing that their voice would be heard and then they issued a report that was devoid of any part of the group’s participation,” Fred Brewington, a civil rights attorney and former co-chairman of the advisory panel, told Newsday.
Tracey Edwards, Long Island’s regional director for the NAACP, said in her resignation email that it was “totally disrespectful” for the county to publicize a plan without notifying the advisory panels.
“The county is not looking for partnership. The county is looking for cover,” Edwards said according to Newsday.
County spokesperson Justine DiGiglio said the members’ resignation was “unfortunate,” especially after the county has held more than 60 meetings with various community groups along with the virtual town halls led by Curran.
“As we include the input of all county residents, we are confident that we will provide a plan that will improve public safety and reinforce trust between Police and the community,” DiGiglio said. “We also look forward to seeing ‘the people’s plan’ when it is presented. As we work towards a final plan, the Administration will remain guided by a balanced, transparent, and inclusive approach.”
Some of the areas for reform highlighted in the draft plan include the use of body cameras by officers, implicit bias training, developing more positive interactions with community members, and how police gather demographic data on drivers throughout the county.
The draft plan states that members of the community advisory panels were given the opportunity to view a video created by another community group called “The Men of Elmont.” The video, according to the plan, touched on a theme of the police making efforts to engage with the communities they serve in a more positive manner.
“The NCPD agrees that increased interaction between the police and the community in positive situations is one of the strongest tools for building bridges and creating trust between officers and residents,” the plan said.
According to the draft 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.
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 draft 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.”