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Village police departments in N. Hempstead release plans for change

The Port Washington Police Department has proposed more

The Port Washington Police Department has proposed more transparency on information relating to arrests and complaints. Credit: Johnny Milano

Seven police agencies in North Hempstead Town have released their reform plans for public review before the documents can be approved by local authorities and submitted to the state by April 1.

The drafts were among a flurry of plans counties and municipalities released in recent weeks to comply with a state order that mandates police to evaluate its policies to modernize practice and eliminate racial disparities in policing.

The April deadline was set by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in an executive order following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May and ensuing widespread protests.

"It’s always good to take a look at what you are doing and to look toward improvements on everything that you are doing," Floral Park Mayor Dominick Longobardi said.

In North Hempstead, there are seven village police departments and the Port Washington Police District, which is a special district governed by a board of three commissioners.

Established in the 1910s and 1920s, the agencies range in size from as small as six sworn officers in Kensington to as big as Port Washington police, which has 65 officers and 20 civilian employees.

Except for Kings Point Police Department, all have posted their plans online for public comment.

The plans said officers will get more hours of anti-bias and de-escalation training and improve data collection on race and ethnicity in arrests, summonses and field stops.

"As you may remember … in Ferguson, Missouri, the department faced allegations that they were targeting members of the minority community," said Robert Glaser, police chief of Old Westbury Police Department. "So we will be able to see numbers to ensure that’s not happening."

Police in Port Washington and Sands Point said in their plans that they will post annual reports online summarizing incidents involving police use of force and civilian complaints.

Making such information public boosts transparency and protects the police force against allegations, the chiefs said.

"That way, people can see and judge for themselves without the guesswork," said Robert Del Muro, police chief in Port Washington.

Unlike some other municipal police departments that have proposed to deploy body cameras, its use was not discussed in six of the seven plans. The Lake Success Police Department is the only one that mentioned it, noting the department doesn’t have a body-worn camera program.

"There’s a lot of cost involved in managing the files and the upkeep of the files," said Joseph Gardella, police chief in Lake Success. "We have to really see what goes on with the surrounding area of departments and where the village government wants to go with that."

Several plans responded to recent calls for alternatives in police-led response to situations involving people suffering from mental illness.

A few said they are working on a "dual response" model with Nassau County’s Mobile Crisis Unit but emphasized officers’ role in responding to calls.

Port Washington’s plan, for example, said the district is "aware of the value of having a mental health professional at these scenes."

"However, the PWPD believes that it is most prudent, in the interest of safety, to have a police officer respond to these calls," according to the plan. "When the public calls the police for assistance, they expect the police to respond."

Public comment period

  • Port Washington Police District plan: Email Chief Robert Del Muro at rdelmuro@pwpd.ny.gov or question@pwpd.ny.gov by March 10.
  • Floral Park Village Police Department plan: Email policereform@fpvillage.org or attend 7 p.m. March 3 Zoom meeting.
  • Great Neck Estates Village Police Department plan: Email mayorwarner@vgne.com or drop comments off at police headquarters at 1 Cedar Dr., Great Neck, NY, 11021, by March 1.
  • Kensington Police Department plan: Email KensingtonPDEO203@gmail.com or mail police headquarters at 1A Beverly Rd., Great Neck, NY, 11021, by March 1.
  • Lake Success Village Police Department plan: Email lakesuccesspdfeedback@lakesuccesspd.org by March 1.
  • Old Westbury Police Department plan: Email Mayor Edward Novick at mayornovick@vowny.org or Chief Robert Glaser at rglaser@oldwestburypd.org by March 15.
  • Sands Point Police Department: View plan online.
  • Kings Point Police Department: Plan not yet released.

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