Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart speaks during a press...

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart speaks during a press conference to announce a reduction in violent crime and other categories for the first nine months of 2019 at Suffolk County Police Headquarters in Yaphank Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. Credit: Barry Sloan

The Suffolk County Police Department has drafted new policies on transferring members to specialty commands at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice, Commissioner Geraldine Hart announced Wednesday.

Her announcement came as a legislative panel weighed and ultimately approved a contested police promotion that had prompted a DOJ review and a whistleblower probe brought by a detective sergeant.

The new policies will document the decisionmaking process for specialty command positions to ensure “integrity and confidence" in the process and help the department continue moving towards being “a more equitable, transparent and inclusive place,” Hart said.

The DOJ recently approved the policies -- the first of their kind in the police department's history -- as part of its consent decree with the county over minority hiring, Hart said.

The DOJ’s request for new policies came before federal Justice officials raised concerns about the promotion of Salvatore Gigante to head the district attorney’s detective squad, she said. Those concerns were shared by some department members and the legislature’s Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory.

Gigante is the nephew of Chief of Detectives Gerard Gigante, who police officials said removed himself from the selection process. 

Other police candidates passed over for the promotion and an outside counsel hired by Gregory had raised issues about nepotism and contended that Salvatore Gigante was the least qualified for the job of all candidates. But Hart has said he was the best person for the job.

The legislature’s government operations committee approved a nepotism waiver for his promotion Wednesday after the DOJ signaled it was no longer investigating his transfer and promotion. The full legislature will vote on the measure Tuesday. 

“I find this whole process disturbing,” Gregory said, alleging that Salvatore Gigante seemed to have been given preferential treatment.

Gregory also lamented what he said was a lack of transparency in the process – which Hart disputed -- and said he plans to file a lawsuit to get more information.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find a more scrutinized promotion in the whole history of the department,” Hart said.

Other legislators defended the promotion, saying it had nothing to do with nepotism but was simply a preference for the candidate because of his previous experience in the district attorney's office doing social media.

They also commended the new written policies, which would apply to the transfer process into most specialty assignments, including the K-9 and crime scene units.

Under the new written policies, the department would post all openings at the beginning of each year with a list of minimum requirements for applicants, Hart said. Applicants’ commanding officers would review whether they meet those requirements. Then a panel would interview every qualified candidate.

The panel would write down its decision and reason for the choice so there is a record of the decision and a way for rejected applicants to get feedback for future promotion efforts. 

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