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Nassau lawmakers call for hotline, website for complaints against police

Nassau County legislators Siela Bynoe and Kevan Abrahams

Nassau County legislators Siela Bynoe and Kevan Abrahams Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp

Two Nassau lawmakers are proposing a 24-hour toll-free hotline and website in which victims of alleged police misconduct can file complaints, an effort they say will add transparency to the current process.

Legislators Kevan Abrahams, the Democratic minority leader, and Siela Bynoe, introduced the resolution, which also would mandate the creation of a publicly accessible, detailed log of all complaints.

"It requires the department to be highly responsive as they move forward through internal investigations," said Bynoe (D-Westbury). "I think that at a time such as this, the county has to establish a highly accessible, transparent and easy to use system for the community to be able to interface with the police department about any concerns they have during an interaction." 

The proposal follows widespread protests on Long Island and across the country for police reform in response to the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer placed his knee on Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds — an encounter captured on video. 

While the Nassau police department has a webpage labeled "compliments or complaints," where members of the public can lodge misconduct allegations, Bynoe said she's heard from constituents that the process is often opaque. The department also says it takes complaints from the public at precincts and over the phone. 

Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, in a statement, said he would review the proposed legislation, but said the department already has an "extensive reporting system" in place. 

“I will review the Legislators resolution with regard to the creation of a website and hotline for reporting misconduct by police as we are always looking to make things better," Ryder said. "The Nassau County Police Department already has in place an extensive reporting system to report misconduct in person, by internet or by phone 24 hours a day, everyday of the year." 

The hotline would be operated by an outside third-party vendor and the website would be created and maintained either by an outside vendor or the county’s Department of Information Technology, according to the proposal.

The resolution would require the website to accept the upload of video and photographic evidence — a feature the current webpage does not have — and that the police commissioner and deputy county executive for public safety be alerted to all complaints against police officers within two days of receipt.

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello, , said in a statement: "We will evaluate existing means to file complaints to determine if they are sufficient. The NCPD has done an extraordinary job keeping our communities safe and the overwhelming interactions of Nassau residents with the police are positive."

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