A closer look at Levy's police role

+ -
Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy speaks at a

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy speaks at a meeting of the Long Island Business Development Council in Ronkonkoma. (June 14, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Joye Brown Newsday columnist Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has


It was long past time for a high-ranking insider to publicly say it.

That departing Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy's influence on the running of the police department may have negatively impacted the department's ability to get its work done.

For years, Levy asserted that there was no problem with hate crimes in Suffolk. And that he had statistics to back it up.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, in an interview with Newsday on Friday, said oh no, that's not so. After Marcelo Lucero's death, for example, Spota sent investigators to a Patchogue church to talk to Latinos who said they had been attacked. He, along with the police department, found victims.

Then they found suspects.

And evidence enough to convict several defendants, including Marcelo's killer Jeffrey Conroy -- on hate-crime charges.

Even the U.S. Justice Department, in a letter to the county as part of its ongoing review of allegations of discriminatory policing of Latinos, noted that Suffolk's assertions on how it handles hate crimes did not match reality.

Which, along with Spota's criticism, makes it an easy stretch to apply the same police management (il)logic to some of the county's other nagging ills.

Take Suffolk's growing problem with gangs and guns. No matter the community, no matter how bold the bad guys, the department's response, consistently, was that the activity was a "spike," that statistics showed crime in the area actually was down.

The response was right out of the PR playbook.

Downplay the negative: There's too much guns/drugs /gangs going on.

Play up the positive: But, hey, it's better here in Huntington Station/North Bellport/Central Islip/Brentwood/Wyandanch than it was a few months ago.

And ignore the obvious: The administration had neither a plan nor resources adequate enough to resolve the problem.

On Thursday, Dormer and Spota, as they waited to testify before the legislature's public safety committee, took to their corners early on.

Dormer sat as far forward and to the right as a visitor to the county's legislative hearing room could sit. Spota took up the diagonally opposed position, on the last row to the left.

The separation, it turns out, was more than symbolic.

Spota told some reporters early on that he intended to tell lawmakers little -- because he felt too much information already had been released about the county's Gilgo Beach murders investigation.

But as he listened to Dormer testify about his one-killer theory in the deaths of eight women, one man and one toddler, the DA became visibly agitated.

At one point, Spota appeared to begin making revisions to his prepared remarks. And when Dormer told lawmakers that forensic evidence linked all 10 bodies in the Gilgo killings, Spota and a deputy exchanged startled glances.

Spota would say later that Dormer's office had been told, through back channels, that prosecutors and investigators in his own department had been stunned by the one-killer theory he'd put forth suddenly in a Newsday interview and television program.

"I just said to myself, 'You're misleading the public,' " Spota said.

With that, Spota ditched the prepared statement and told lawmakers exactly what was on his mind.

He added still more criticism on Friday of Dormer.

And of Levy -- who announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election after Spota's prosecutors raised questions about his campaign financing.

On Friday, Spota was careful, however, to separate the police force from his criticism of its leadership.

He said, for example, that the brouhaha over his disagreement with Dormer would have zero impact on prosecutors and police working the Gilgo Beach case.

"They kept doing their work," he said.

Hopefully, with new leadership, the rest of the department can get back to the same thing.

Promo text


Newsday.com now uses Facebook for our comment boards. Please read our guidelines and connect your Facebook account to comment.

You also may be interested in: